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On behalf of Steven Waldinger

Projects in Westchester County, New York, that impact the environment generally require completion and approval of an environmental impact statement.

Construction and other projects that impact the environment in Westchester County, New York may require the completion and approval of certain legal forms before the project can be completed. These forms are referred to as environmental impact statements and are regulated by federal, state and local laws.

Environmental impact statements and federal law

An environmental impact statement (EIS) is defined under Section 102(2)(C) of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). It states:

[A]ll agencies of the Federal Government shall – include in every recommendation or report on proposals for legislation and other major Federal actions significantly affecting the quality of the human environment, a detailed statement by the responsible official on – (i) the environmental impact of the proposed action, (ii) any adverse environmental effects which cannot be avoided should the proposal be implemented, (iii) alternatives to the proposed action, (iv) the relationship between local short-term uses of man’s environment and the maintenance and enhancement of long-term productivity, and (v) any irreversible and irretrievable commitments of resources which would be involved in the proposed action should it be implemented.

EIS are intended to provide a type of guide that allows for the consideration of social, economic and environmental impacts of a project or action. Qualifying actions can include various projects like construction. Any activity that is taken on by a state or local agency, involves funding by an agency or requires an approval from an agency requires the use of an environmental impact statement (EIS).

Environmental impact statements and state and local laws

In addition to the federal regulations under the NEPA, additional regulations are present at state and local levels. In New York, the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQR) requires the completion of environmental reviews for projects that “involve the disturbance of the natural landscape or built environment.” These reviews are designed to determine if the project will have a significant impact on the environment. If so, the project should include efforts to avoid these impacts.

Westchester County’s Department of Planning notes that projects with only a potential environmental impact require completion of an environmental assessment form (EAF) while those with one or more potentially significant environmental impacts rise to the level of the EIS. In many cases, a project begins with an EAF to evaluate the potential impacts and then decides whether or not a more complex EIS is necessary.

Importance of legal counsel

Failure to properly complete a needed EIS can provide grounds for groups that claim the project causes them harm to proceed with legal action that could ultimately lead to court involvement and the cancelation of the project. As a result, the careful completion of these legal documents can be instrumental to a project’s success. Those who are in this situation are wise to seek the counsel of an experienced Westchester County real estate attorney. This legal professional can assist in drafting these documents, better ensuring a more favorable outcome.