The Often Overlooked SEQR Environmental Assessment Form and its Close Friend, the SEQR EAF Workbook

 

Stack of Documents

It is often neatly tucked away in between many other more interesting documents submitted in support of a new project application. Our eyes are instead drawn to the letter of intent, site and subdivision maps and graphics of building elevations and signs. How about that landscaping plan or the traffic study? This unassuming, vaguely familiar form may garner a quick glance but is otherwise unattended to, left cold and lonely and buried beneath stacks of more interesting and seemingly more relevant documents.

To many, the SEQR (“State Environmental Quality Review Act”) Environmental Assessment Form is a mysterious document that raises as many questions as it offers answers. Who is supposed to complete it? By when must it be completed? Why are there multiple parts and what are they for? How am I supposed to understand all of these terms I have never heard of before? Isn’t the planning staff or engineer supposed to handle this?

Fortunately, the NY Department of Environmental Conservation has created a very useful resource which helps to answer many of these questions – the SEQR Environmental Assessment Form Workbook. You can find the workbook online here, at the DEC’s website.

Not only can the workbook be used as a reference to address a particular question about the EAF, but, perhaps more importantly, it is designed as a guide which can be used to walk through each and every question, line and part of the EAF.

To get a head start, you should know that the workbook is divided into a few categories – Short Form EAF – Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 and Long Form EAF – Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. If these terms are unfamiliar or vague to you, please read on below, where I give a very brief overview.

So, the next time an EAF form lands on your desk, I suggest you take a look at the SEQR Workbook. In my experience, it can really demystify the EAF forms.  Also, if any of you are headed to New York City this year for the Association of Towns Annual Conference, I will be there presenting on the SEQR EAF and the Workbook. Hope to see you there!


 

The long form EAF is used for projects which typically raise substantial environmental questions, also known as “Type 1” actions. The short form, which is much shorter and less detailed than the long form, is required for projects which are not typically as substantial, referred to as “Unlisted” actions.

Part 1, submitted by the applicant, simply identifies factual information related to the project, ranging from the property address and the applicant’s name, to the size and zoning of the property, etc. This information forms the basis for filling out Parts 2 and 3.

Part 2, to be completed by the lead agency, is used for the initial, more general, environmental review of the project. It comprises a series of check boxes representing categories of potential environmental impacts which the lead agency must consider.

Part 3, also to be completed by the lead agency, is less of a form and more of blank page which is used to draft a narrative to explain (and make) the lead agency’s determination (positive declaration or negative declaration). This is where we decide whether the project will undergo further, more scrutinizing environmental review (in the form of an EIS).