STAFF CONTACT :
The Business Council of New York State, Inc. opposes this legislation that would impose an additional layer of environmental assessments and environmental approvals on certain projects. Specifically, it would allow the Secretary of State to unilaterally approve, disapprove or require modifications of any “major projects” or any project located within newly designated “environmentally sensitive areas.” It also gives the Secretary broad authority to designate both "major projects" and "environmentally sensitive areas." This new authority would apply to such projects located within coastal zones (specifically to "land under water or lands adjacent thereto which may have a substantial effect on coastal resources in coastal areas."
This new layer of review and approval would be in addition to significant existing review processes, including environmental assessments under either the National Environmental Policy Act (for federally-approved projects) or the State Environmental Quality Review Act (or SEQRA, for state- or municipally approved projects); and would be in addition to consistency determinations under federal and state coastal zone management acts. This new approval process would also be in addition to other environmental quality permits and approvals that may be required of a significant development project, including but not limited to air and water discharge permits, registration requirements for oil and chemical storage facilities, hazardous waste management permits and others.
Given the existing array of reviews and approvals, there seems to be no need for this additional review mechanism.
Moreover, unlike existing environmental assessment criteria, this legislation fails to apply reasonable criteria regarding the requirements of assessments and mitigation measures. For example, SEQRA requires government decisions to be made with consideration of economic, social and environmental factors -- it is unclear how decisions under this new process would be made. Likewise, SEQRA requires environmental assessments to focus on potential significant impacts on the environment, and requires that projects minimize adverse impacts to the maximum extent practicable. This legislation applies no such criteria to the Secretary of State's new authority to review, approve or require modifications of projects.
In summary, this legislation gives expansive new authority to the Secretary of State, with virtually no statutory guidelines or limits on how that authority will be applied. It establishes an additional layer of environmental review and approvals without providing any clear environmental quality benefits.
For these reasons, The Business Council opposes adoption of A.11625/S.6549-A.