How Environmental Review Can Generate Car-Induced Pollution: A Case Study
14 Sustainable Dev. L. & Pol'y 16 (Winter 2014)
11 Pages Posted: 3 Oct 2014 Last revised: 13 Feb 2015
Date Written: 2014
The National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”) requires federal officials to draft an environmental impact statement (“EIS”) describing the environmental impact of proposed federal actions that significantly affect the environment, as well as analyze the environmental impacts of alternatives to the proposed action. Almost two dozen states have adopted “little NEPA” statutes imposing similar requirements upon state and/or local governments.
This article focuses on one of the strictest little NEPA statutes: New York's State Environmental Quality Review Act (“SEQRA”). While most little NEPA statutes cover only government projects,SEQRA also covers private sector projects requiring municipal permits. Furthermore, SEQRA requires the government to consider both environmental and social impacts of its actions, unlike NEPA and about half of the existing little NEPA statutes.
This article contends that the stringencies of SEQRA occasionally have harmful environmental consequences because SEQRA can easily be used to delay “infill development” -- that is, development in already-developed areas such as cities and older suburbs. When this occurs, development may shift from older areas to “greenfields,” newer suburbs that tend to be more dependent on automobiles and thus to produce more pollution.
Keywords: SEQRA, development, pollution, environmental impact statement, environmental review, NEPA
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation