Relates to requirements for lead agency, specifically in circumstances when actions involve the religious exercise of a person.
TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the environmental conservation law, in relation to the requirements for lead agency
PURPOSE OR GENERAL IDEA OF BILL: Amends the environmental quality review law with regard to what entity may serve as lead agency.
SUMMARY OF SPECIFIC PROVISIONS: Section 1 amends section 8-0111 of the environmental conservation law so that if an action to be carried out or approved by two or more agencies involves the religious exercise of a person, only a county or state agency may act as lead agency.
Section 2 provides that this act shall take effect immediately.
JUSTIFICATION: The State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) was enacted in 1976, so that environment impacts are duly considered when projects are building in the state's cities, towns, villages and rural areas. However, when projects are complex or controversial, is it possible for consultants, or developers, or citizens groups, or well organized opponents or advocate groups to effectively remove control of the SEQRA process from the local public officials who should be leading and shaping the process. Such loss of control by local public officials of the SEQRA process is problematic because the public officials taking part in the process are expected to be honest brokers who will keep the process objective and fact-driven.
On a local level, conflicts between groups over projects concerning the exercise of one's religion, can often polarize the SEQRA process to a point where local officials have difficulty maintaining the objectivity of the process. This legislation will help ensure the objectivity of the local SEQRA process in such circumstances by requiring that where an action involves the religious exercise of a person or persons, as such is defined under the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, a county or state agency will be the lead agency.
PRIOR LEGISLATIVE HISTORY: None. This is new legislation.
FISCAL IMPLICATIONS: None.
EFFECTIVE DATE: This act shall take effect immediately.
STATE OF NEW YORK ________________________________________________________________________ 2851--A 2011-2012 Regular Sessions IN SENATE February 2, 2011 ___________Introduced by Sens. PARKER, KRUGER -- read twice and ordered printed, and when printed to be committed to the Committee on Environmental Conservation -- committee discharged, bill amended, ordered reprinted as amended and recommitted to said committee AN ACT to amend the environmental conservation law, in relation to the requirements for lead agency THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, REPRESENTED IN SENATE AND ASSEM- BLY, DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS: Section 1. Subdivision 6 of section 8-0111 of the environmental conservation law, as added by chapter 612 of the laws of 1975, is amended to read as follows: 6. Lead Agency. When an action is to be carried out or approved by two or more agencies, the determination of whether the action may have a significant effect on the environment shall be made by the lead agency having principal responsibility for carrying out or approving such action and such agency shall prepare, or cause to be prepared by contract or otherwise, the environmental impact statement for the action if such a statement is required by this article. In the event that there is a question as to which is the lead agency, any agency may submit the question to the commissioner and the commissioner shall designate the lead agency, giving due consideration to the capacity of such agency to fulfill adequately the requirements of this article. NOTWITHSTANDING ANY OTHER PROVISION OF THIS ARTICLE OR ANY OTHER LAW TO THE CONTRARY, IN ANY CIRCUMSTANCE WHEN AN ACTION TO BE CARRIED OUT OR APPROVED BY TWO OR MORE AGENCIES INVOLVES THE RELIGIOUS EXERCISE OF A PERSON, AS SUCH IS DEFINED BY THE RELIGIOUS LAND USE AND INSTITUTIONALIZED PERSONS ACT OF 2000 (RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. SS 2000CC, ET SEQ., ONLY A COUNTY OR STATE AGENCY MAY ACT AS THE LEAD AGENCY. S 2. This act shall take effect immediately.EXPLANATION--Matter in ITALICS (underscored) is new; matter in brackets [ ] is old law to be omitted. LBD07304-03-1