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September 25, 2013

New Environmental Assessment Forms For New York

Starting October 7, 2013, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) will require use of its new State Environmental Quality Review ("SEQR") Environmental Assessment Forms ("EAFs").  Both the "Full" and "Short" form versions have been revamped to include more detail as well as address environmental conditions that have come to light since the forms were last updated over twenty-five years ago.  The revised EAFs were adopted by the NYSDEC back in January 2012 after a lengthy public review and comment period, and represent the first major update to the forms since 1987 for the Short EAF and 1978 for the Full EAF.

In addition to the substantive updates, the new EAFs were designed to be completed and submitted electronically.   EAF Mapper software, which has yet to be released, will be integrated with the forms so that portions of the EAF will be automatically completed with spatial data once the location of the proposed project is entered.   The mapping software will be based on GIS data maintained by the NYSDEC and other agencies, and will include buffers to ensure that all resources are identified.  Companion EAF Workbooks are also in the process of being finalized by the NYSDEC which will include source references, examples, and explanations to aid in the preparation of the forms.

While some of these changes aim to bring efficiency to the process, the longer and more detailed forms will present new challenges as more in-depth questions and new areas, such as climate change and energy efficiency, will need to be addressed.  Besides requiring more time and expense to complete, the new questions may also prompt more litigation by opponents and applicants alike due to the nature of the new questions.

The new forms and draft workbook can be accessed via: http://www.dec.ny.gov/permits/70293.html

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