This legislation would amend New York’s State Environmental Quality Review Act (“SEQRA”) to make time periods mandatory and not subject to extension unless the applicant or project sponsor agrees to a period of extension.
The members of The Business Council of the State of New York have continually identified SEQRA as a major barrier to new investment in New York. The members of the Business Council uniformly support an effort to amend the SEQRA process to reduce uncertainty, and bureaucratic delays.
We support the efforts of the Sponsors of this legislation to identify opportunities to improve the SEQRA process. The members of The Business Council agree strongly that adherence to timeframes would be a significant improvement. But since SEQRA provides significant discretionary authority to lead agencies to impose conditions on or deny applications for agency approval of proposed projects, few project sponsors will refuse an agency request to extend a deadline.
The Business Council believes that although the legislation would provide some minor improvement that the legislation to be truly effective should address more than just the timeframes of SEQRA.
We believe there are a number of ways the state’s environmental approval process can be improved to facilitate new investment in the state. As discussed below, these include: clarifying the standard for when an application or environmental impact statement is "complete," and able to move forward for public review and comment; adopting a more appropriate standard for adjudicable issues in DEC permit hearings; assure that regulatory timetables for project reviews are adhered to by the Department; and create a "fast-track" process for applications that meet certain criteria (e.g., replacement projects, pollution reduction, etc.); do not allow SEQRA to "trump" established regulatory standards; and integrate coastal zone reviews with other state environmental review requirements.
The Business Council supports S.5395 because SEQRA is not currently meeting the needs of the public and needs to be amended.