Assessment of Public Comment

 

The Authority conducted a public hearing on June 6, 2006; no members of the public appeared to offer comments on the proposed revisions to 21 NYCRR Part 461.  The public record was held open for five days and a letter was received on June 12, 2006 and was considered timely submitted by virtue of the fact that the final day of the comment period (June 11, 2006) fell on a Sunday.

 

The letter received was signed by Assemblyman Ruben Diaz, Jr. of the 85th Assembly District in the Bronx.  The Diaz letter notes that the “…changes that are actually proposed are worthwhile…” but also opines that the Authority has failed to incorporate

“. . . principles of environmental justice into its SEQRA rules.”

 

The Diaz letter specifically comments that “[A]t a minimum, the Power Authority should adopt additional changes to its SEQRA rules by amending 21 NYCRR Part 461 to commit the Power Authority to following all aspects of DEC’s environmental justice policy when the authority is the lead agency” [page 2, lines 12 – 14]. The Authority has considered the recommendation and declined to make the modification suggested by the Diaz letter for the following reasons:

 

  1. The Authority is committed to complete its SEQRA obligations in the most thorough manner possible and in full compliance with the law.  An appropriate SEQRA review takes into consideration socioeconomic factors such as environmental justice.  Furthermore, it is clearly in the Authority’s interest to ensure that its environmental assessment efforts will withstand the strictest standards of judicial review.  Therefore, it is certain that the Authority will evaluate its actions against a wide range of Department of Environmental Conservation (“DEC”) regulations, standards and policies while completing its environmental assessments in those rare instances in which the Authority assumes the lead agency role.  It can be safely presumed that the Authority will employ methods of evaluating environmental justice that are at least as stringent as those followed by DEC in such instances.

 

  1. DEC’s environmental justice policy, which is not a regulation, only applies in instances in which DEC is issuing a permit or issuing a major modification to a permit in certain specific regulatory areas.  It is an extremely rare circumstance under which the Authority will act as lead agency when a permit issuance action by DEC is contemplated.  It would be counterproductive to the Authority’s mission to speculatively commit to certain processes for the future when the rare circumstances that trigger the principles of environmental justice may require other avenues of addressing this important topic.

 

 

  1. In those instances in which the Authority is the lead agency, and a permit action on the part of DEC is contemplated (thus possibly triggering DEC’s environmental justice policy if DEC were to be lead agency), it is clear that DEC would be an “involved agency.”  As an involved agency, DEC would be commenting on the Authority’s environmental assessment or environmental impact statement.  In that role, DEC would certainly evaluate the Authority’s efforts to ensure that its environmental justice insights would be incorporated into the Authority’s final work product and findings.

 

For the foregoing reasons, the Authority has declined to make the specific changes recommended by Assemblyman Diaz, but takes note of such recommendations for future environmental assessments.