Environmental Law
SEQRA/Environmental Impact Review

Pursuant to both the federal National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and New York’s State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA), our attorneys’ experience with Environmental Impact Reviews involves transactions of substantial magnitude and complexity for diverse clients, including state and local governmental agencies and private developers. We emphasize strict compliance with the procedural aspects of NEPA and SEQRA, while ensuring that there is a comprehensive administrative record to support any record of decision. We also take a team management approach with clients to expedite the preparation of environmental studies that include draft Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) and final EISs, and we have extensive experience with generic EISs. These cost-effective approaches allow for timely, yet thorough, environmental reviews, while minimizing the likelihood of any successful subsequent legal challenge.

Phillips Lytle has extensive experience assisting state and local governmental agencies through the Environmental Impact Review process. Acting as special counsel, we have assisted a number of governmental and quasi-governmental agencies through particularly complex and problematic environmental reviews on a timely and cost-effective basis. We have been successful at using the Environmental Impact Review process to jumpstart projects that were otherwise stalled.

Phillips Lytle has also handled a wide variety of Environmental Impact Reviews for public and private project sponsors. The experience of our attorneys ranges from simple assessments to complex, multi-year joint NEPA/SEQRA/EISs and arises from handling thousands of environmental impact issues. We utilize our in-depth understanding of Environmental Impact Reviews to develop a unique, strategic implementation plan for each environmental review, tailoring it to meet the timing and financial needs of the client and the project. In the event of legal challenges, the same attorneys who handled the challenged environmental review aggressively defend it. This familiarity with the facts and circumstances of the review reduce defense costs and increase the likelihood of success.

Our involvement includes the following representative matters:

  • Represented the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation (ECHDC), a subsidiary of Empire State Development Corporation, on environmental, land use and real estate matters pertaining to ongoing redevelopment efforts associated with the City of Buffalo’s waterfront. The ECHDC continues to lead the development of Canalside, a one-million-plus-square-foot mixed-use real estate development project spread over 20 acres of Buffalo’s inner harbor area. Phillips Lytle attorneys have represented ECHDC through a generic environmental impact statement process in this archaeologically sensitive area adjacent to a low-income housing development to meet an aggressive construction schedule.
  • Represented the City of Buffalo in an Environmental Impact Review and land use matters related to the siting of a Native American casino within city limits, as well as certain municipal actions related to that casino. Phillips Lytle shepherded the city through a segmented Environmental Impact Review and has successfully defended that segmented review in an Article 78 challenge by community opponents. The State Supreme Court’s interim and final rulings on segmentation issues adopted our arguments and provided significant clarification in an area of law that had been ambiguous. In 2009, the Environmental Team successfully defended the segmented environmental review conducted by the City in the Appellate Division, Fourth Department. That Court unanimously affirmed the State Supreme Court’s ruling that the City had properly segmented the environmental review of its own actions from the development of a Native American casino, even though the actions were related, and the City had taken a “hard look” at the environmental impacts associated with its actions.
  • Represented the County of Chautauqua Industrial Development Agency (CCIDA) with respect to environmental matters and, in particular, Environmental Impact Reviews pursuant to SEQRA. Phillips Lytle led the CCIDA through a generic EIS for the Ripley Interstate Site Development Project – a one-million-square-foot industrial development on 170 acres in the Town of Ripley, NY. Phillips Lytle attorneys drafted the scoping reports (drafted and final), the draft generic EIS and the final generic EIS for the project. Phillips Lytle attorneys also assisted the CCIDA with Environmental Impact Reviews for a number of large-scale wind farms that are proposed throughout Chautauqua County.
  • Acted as lead attorneys for a wind farm development on the site of a former steel mill along Lake Erie. We completed the SEQRA process for this project and obtained all necessary zoning approvals in less than 60 days.
  • Represented a steel manufacturer with regard to the construction of a 200,000-ton-per-year stainless steel rolling mill in Western New York. The SEQRA process for this approximately $100 million project was completed in 45 days. No EIS was required.
  • Represented a private developer with regard to the construction of a state-of-the-art underground aquarium. The SEQRA process for this approximately $30 million project, located immediately adjacent to an historic state park, was completed in under 90 days. No EIS was required.
  • Represented a stainless steel manufacturer with regard to the construction of a 500,000-ton-per-year stainless steel melt shop on a brownfields site in Western New York. The SEQRA process for this approximately $250 million project was completed in roughly 180 days. No EIS was required.
  • Represented a private developer with regard to the demolition and reconstruction of a low-income housing project involving more than 650 units located on 20 acres in Upstate New York. The initial SEQRA and NEPA processes for this approximately $80 million project were completed in less than 90 days. No EIS was required.
  • Represented an automotive manufacturer with regard to two major expansions at an existing engine manufacturing facility in Upstate New York. The SEQRA process for a $500 million expansion to construct a new engine manufacturing plant was completed in approximately 90 days. No EIS was required for either expansion.
  • Acted as project sponsor for planned renovations and rehabilitation at an existing public school, including the construction of a new sports complex. Working with consultants, we prepared the draft EIS for this project, as well as the final EIS and final findings statement. By providing Environmental Impact Review project management, we were able to complete the full SEQRA process, including all required public hearings, in approximately five months. We also defended a subsequent lawsuit by neighbors who were challenging the legal sufficiency of the environmental review. The suit was dismissed.
  • Acted as lead agency with regard to the Environmental Impact Review for a proposed private sewer line and accompanying residential development. We worked with a municipality and the primary-involved agencies to ensure that the project sponsors prepared a thorough and complete “draft generic environmental impact statement.” We also succeeded in dismissing a subsequent lawsuit by neighbors who challenged the legal sufficiency of the environmental review.
  • Acted as lead agency for the review and approval of a proposed major vertical and horizontal expansion of a large existing landfill. We worked with a municipality to ensure that all SEQRA procedures were in compliance and that an adequate EIS was prepared.
  • Counseled industrial development agencies and numerous applicants for industrial development agency incentive packages with regard to SEQRA compliance.
Practice Area Icon: Environmental Law