The Role of Environment Review in Local Government

Environmental Review refers to the processes and procedures used to identify any negative environmental impacts caused by projects, assess their significance, and suggest solutions or mitigate them. Local governments may employ various methods to conduct environmental reviews as well as create policies and guidelines for their application, such as written documents, policy statements or administrative codes. They may also wish to set up working groups from departments responsible for these reviews to share solutions to common problems and help ensure all aspects of the review process remain cohesive.

Every project receiving Federal funds must undergo an Environmental Review (ER), which determines compliance with Federal, state and local laws and regulations. An ER should include a thorough analysis of any environmental impacts from the project as well as inviting public participation in decision making processes as well as allow interested parties to share their feedback during this review process.

Before undertaking “choice-limiting actions”* such as acquisition, demolition, disposition, rehabilitation, repair, new construction site preparation or leasing agreements a complete Environmental Report must first be obtained and issued. Failing to do so could jeopardize Federal funding and lead to disallowance of costs incurred prior to receiving the ER release release letter.

Environment Review covers all facets of environmental science and related studies, from the effects of human activities on natural systems to their consequences for society. As an e-only journal, Environment Review publishes critical literature reviews as well as provide a platform for discussions around larger issues that arise in this area. With an editorial board comprised of top scientists in various disciplines around the globe, Environment Review remains at the forefront of environmental sciences studies today.

Environmental Review can be an intimidating, lengthy and expensive process for local governments. Yet its benefits cannot be overstated: taking time and care in planning an effective review can save money in future projects and allow for informed debate of relevant issues and the creation of sound policy.

Some projects, such as mining operations and some housing developments, necessitate an Environmental Impact Statement in its entirety. Others, such as a school, community center or recreational trail development may qualify for an expedited environmental review process if their density meets the density requirements set out in a zoning code or community plan, and meets other specified requirements. These projects may qualify for an expedited and less costly environmental review process than would normally be necessary. A streamlined review process does not negate the necessity to consider any environmental impacts; rather it speeds up approval processes while decreasing costs associated with environmental reviews. At their Interdivisional Meeting, applicants seeking discretionary land use actions should be advised if their action requires environmental review. If so, those subject to such review can find more information at the City’s CEQR website.

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