The environmental review process in Nassau County is governed by the New York State Environmental Review Act (SEQR). Commonly asked questions about SEQR are presented and answered below.
What is the purpose of SEQR?
SEQR requires state and local government agencies to consider the environmental impacts of proposed plans and projects during discretionary decision-making. The goal of SEQR is to ensure that environmental considerations are balanced with social and economic factors during the decision-making process.
To whom does SEQR apply?
SEQR applies to all state or local government agencies in any situation where they have the discretion to approve, fund, or directly undertake an action.
What is the Planning Commission’s role in the SEQR process?
The Planning Commission reviews all subdivision applications in the County’s unincorporated areas and all applications for subdivisions on properties that fall within 300 feet of a municipal boundary. Because the Planning Commission has exclusive control over these subdivisions and waiver of subdivision applications, the Commission typically serves as the lead agency in the SEQR process.
Article XVI, Section 1611 of the Nassau County Charter outlines the role of the Planning Commission in the environmental review process.
What is a lead agency?
The lead agency is the agency principally responsible for carrying out, funding or approving an action. When a lead agency is established, the agency is responsible for determining the category of an action and its significance.
What is a Type I action?
Type I actions meet or exceed certain thresholds for environmental impact and are likely to require the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). These actions require a full Environmental Assessment Form (Full EAF). A Type I action in Nassau County is an action or class of actions listed in the New York State regulations or listed in an involved agency’s SEQR procedures. Type I actions require Coordinated Review among all involved agencies.
What is a Type II action?
A Type II Action is one that will not have a significant adverse impact on the environment. Type II actions do not require preparation of a "determination of significance" or an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Once an action is classified as Type II, review under SEQR is complete.
What is an Unlisted Action?
Unlisted Actions range from very minor activities to actions falling just below Type I thresholds. Unlisted Actions are not subject to Coordinated Review, but an EIS may still be required.
How does the Planning Commission determine whether a proposed Type I or Unlisted action may have a significant adverse impact on the environment?
The Commission considers all environmental impacts that could reasonably be expected to result from the proposed action. Areas of consideration include, but are not limited to: groundwater, stormwater runoff, noise, visual environment, vehicle traffic, natural habitat, and vegetation.
If the Commission determines that the proposed action may result in at least one significant adverse impact, a Positive Declaration is issued and a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) is required.
What is an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)?
An EIS is a comprehensive document that analyzes the significant adverse impacts of a proposed action and evaluates all reasonable alternatives. The EIS is the principal information source upon which an agency bases its decision about how and to what extent a proposed action might impact the environment.
What are the basic steps in a SEQR review (where the Planning Commission is the lead agency)?
- The Commission classifies the action. If the action is Type II, the SEQR process ends.
- If the action is Type I or Unlisted, the Commission makes one of two determinations:
- The action may be environmentally significant and an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is required (“positive declaration”), or
- The action will not be environmentally significant, and the SEQR process ends (“negative declaration”)
The Commission must document in writing the reasons for its decision.
- If a draft EIS is required, its scope is determined and a minimum 30-day public comment period is required for review of the draft.
- Based on the final EIS, each involved agency must make SEQR findings to minimize the identified environmental impacts.
Can the public comment on a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS)?
Yes. The public can submit written comments to the lead agency once a Notice of Completion for the DEIS has been filed. The lead agency is required to accept comments for at least 30 days after the DEIS has been filed. Depending on the circumstances, a public hearing may also be held. When this happens, the comment period must continue for a minimum of 10 days after the hearing.
Although the Nassau County Planning Commission is required only to accept written comments, it has held public hearings on the vast majority of actions that have come before it under SEQR.
What is the difference between a Draft and a Final Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS and FEIS)?
The DEIS is prepared immediately after a Positive Declaration is made. The format may be flexible, but all DEIS’s include elements such as: a description of the proposed action; a description of the environmental setting; a statement and evaluation of the potential significant adverse environmental impacts of the action; a description of the mitigation measures to minimize environmental impacts; and a description and evaluation of the range of reasonable alternatives to the action.
Once the DEIS has been submitted to, and approved by the lead agency, the public has a minimum of 30 days to comment on the DEIS, and may be offered an opportunity to participate in a public hearing.
The FEIS must include responses to all comments received from the public. An FEIS includes: the draft EIS, including any necessary revisions and supplements; copies or a summary of the substantive comments received and their sources; and the lead agency’s response to the comments.
What happens after the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) has been filed?
After the FEIS is filed and before the lead agency issues a final decision, each involved agency must prepare a written findings statement - issuing a “positive” or “negative” finding.
A positive findings statement indicates that the project or action is approvable. The statement demonstrates that the action chosen is the one that avoids or minimizes adverse environmental impacts presented in the EIS and balances the environmental impacts with social, economic and other considerations.
A negative findings statement indicates that the project is not approvable. The statement documents the reasons for denial.
Where can I get more information about the environmental review process?
For assistance in filing applications, identifying Planning Commission jurisdiction for specific proposals, answering SEQR questions regarding a specific proposal, obtaining information about the review status of an application, or other answering other related questions, please contact our main offices at (516) 571-5844.