THE NYSERDA SEQRA PROCESS
The following is my understanding of the bureaucratic process involving wind power stations and how we can get involved. It has taken me weeks to get these things straight and I still have a lot to learn. I think it is important stuff for everyone to understand.
First some definitions:
SEQRA: State Environmental Quality Review Act
SEQR: State Environmental Quality Review. In this paper I will sometimes say SEQR review. While that is a redundant expression, I think it will make this more understandable.
EIS Environmental Impact Statement
Lead Agency – Agency that coordinates a SEQR review
Global Winds Harvest has applied for a four and a half million dollar grant from NYSERDA. Before Global Winds can receive the money it must undergo what is called a SEQR (State Environmental Quality Review). I believe the original purpose of SEQRA was to ensure that any state, regional or local government agency would have a systematic way to consider environmental impact when doing such diverse things as giving grant money or issuing building permits. A SEQR review requires that all agencies decide whether actions they directly undertake, fund or approve may have a significant adverse environmental impact. If so, then the agency must request an environmental impact statement (EIS).
Since NYSERDA is considering giving
money to Global, there must be a SEQRA review.
From what I understand, when a SEQRA review is done, one state agency
acts as the LEAD agency. The lead agency
will contact all state agencies that might have an interest in reviewing the
application. They are called the
“interested agencies.” In this case it
looks like NYSERDA is acting as the LEAD Agent.
Last March NYSERDA sent out a letter to ten state agencies, including
the town supervisors in
I do not know how far along Global’s SEQR review has advanced. I do know that Global wants to have its
review finished and have its project formally started by the end of the year
because there is some kind of tax credit that they may lose if they are not
finished with the preliminaries and ready to go by
The lead agent NYSERDA may have already sent out letters to interested agencies asking them to review the Global project. I do not know exactly how each agency submits a report, but I believe that if each of the agencies reports that the Global project looks okay to them, then that will be the end of the SEQR review. (Somewhere along the way there are supposed to be public hearings, but I don’t’ have a clue when or where that happens.)
I think that the findings are printed in the paper and there are ten days for the public to respond before the case is closed so to speak and Global is promised its money.
Here’s the big HOWEVER.
HOWEVER – If the lead agency (in this case NYSERDA) determines from the reports it gets that there will be the potential for at least one significant adverse environmental impact from Global’s project, then there must be an EIS (environmental impact statement).
Getting an EIS will drag out the review, and in this case perhaps extend it into 2004 which Global does not want. However it is the only right thing to do if environmental concerns are going to be addressed.
The Catch 22 of all this is that I believe that when SEQRA was written, the people who drafted it did not anticipate a situation like the one in Prattsburgh where no governmental body is required to regulate a power station. If our town board had a zoning board or a planning board then I don’t think there would be a choice about whether or not they wanted to regulate the project. I think they would HAVE to have their own SEQR review before they could give out building permits because ultimately they would have to be able to defend their decision to approve the project as being environmentally sound. They would know that they were being held accountable by SEQRA.
that because NYSERDA is only involved with giving out money that they only have
to consider general environmental factors in their SEQR. If the town board were doing the SEQR on
account of zoning or the fact that they give out building permits, then the
town SEQR would have to consider each individual turbine and its
environmental impact. That is what
happened in the town of
It seems a little ridiculous that a town with zoning is expected to do a SEQRA and in fact would be liable for legal action if they didn’t, while a town without zoning could just let any old project go ahead. I truly don’t think that was the intent of SEQRA.
I believe that most people who have been contacted about the SEQRA probably don’t comprehend that this project is unregulated and won’t know unless they are contacted by residents of the town.
I have not written about Ecogen because I do not at all understand whether they must have a SEQR review. Tom Hagner indicated that they had to have one, but I don’t know why since I thought no state agency was giving them money. If they are having a SEQR then it would be good to know who is the lead agent. I wrote to Hagner but he did not write back.
One more thing. I asked Peter Keane if the Advocates for Prattsburgh could be an “involved agency” and he said no, which I realize is correct since we are not giving money or giving permits. Then I wrote to him back and asked about being an “interested agency” and this is what he said,
Agency under SEQR means a governmental body, whether a state agency or a
unit of local government. Private groups are not agencies, so they cannot
be "involved" or "interested" agencies. However, given that, as per the
regulation you quote, members of the public and "interested agencies" have
the same opportunity to participate, the fact that you do not represent an
agency does'nt make a lot of difference.
Peter R. Keane
I take that to mean we should send him information. He is email@example.com
The following are the contact people who were originally asked if they wanted to be lead agents for the Global project. I am assuming they will be giving reports as part of the Global SEQR. Therefore it is necessary that we contact them to let them know our concerns and ask them to consider the need for an EIS. Remember, if an environmental impact statement (EIS) is required, the whole process will take much longer. You may not want to write to all, so choose which agency you think would be the most interested. There are so many different concerns – When writing to an agency, think about what that agency would care about when determining environmental impact.
Ms. Ruth Pierpont
NYS Office of Parks Recreation and Historic Preservation
Mr. Matt Brower
NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets
Division of Agricultural Protection and Development Services
Mr. John Cole
NYS Department of Environmental Conservation
Division of Environmental Permits, Central office
Steuben County Industrial Development Agency
234 Route 54 North
Mr. Robert P. Alexander
FAA Eastern Region
Air Traffic Division
Airspace Branch AEA-520
Mr. Harold McConnell
P.O. Bo 427
Ms. Amy Dlugos
Mr. Lane Clute
Mr. John H. Smolinsky
NYS Dept of Public Service