In an action seeking to annul a negative declaration under the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA), the Fourth Department determined the petitioners did not allege an environmental injury, and therefore did not have standing to bring the petition. The petition concerned the construction of an Erie Community College building on the Amherst campus. Apparently, the underlying basis for the petition was the fact that that the new construction was not in the City of Buffalo, but rather was in a suburb. The court explained that the “injuries” described by the petitioners, such as difficulty in commuting to the new location, were not the type of “environmental injury” contemplated by SEQRA:
Despite the responsibility of every citizen to contribute to the preservation and enhancement of the quality of the environment, there is a limit on those who may raise environmental challenges to governmental actions … . Those seeking to raise SEQRA challenges must establish both “an environmental injury that is in some way different from that of the public at large, and . . . that the alleged injury falls within the zone of interests sought to be protected or promoted by SEQRA” … .
Here, petitioners failed to establish that they have suffered an environmental injury. In opposition to the motion to dismiss, each petitioner submitted an affidavit discussing how he had been allegedly harmed. Petitioner Wilfred Turner stated that, as a student at ECC, he would be harmed by the proposed construction because he did not own a motor vehicle, and it would be both expensive and inconvenient for him and other similarly situated students to use public transportation to attend classes at the Amherst Campus. Petitioner Joel Giambra, the former County Executive of Erie County, stated that, if the proposed facility were constructed on the Amherst Campus instead of within the City of Buffalo, “[he] would be harmed in that all of the work [he had] done and all of the procedures [he had] fought for would be shown to have been useless.” Finally, petitioner Joseph Golombek, Jr., a City Council member for the City of Buffalo (City), stated that he would be harmed because of the “unfavorable decision on the placement of the facility” inasmuch as his “constituents [would] certainly judge [him] according to how well he accomplished [his] tasks,” such as safeguarding the City from “adverse economic decisions” and “promot[ing] the expansion of business and economic opportunity within the City.” None of those alleged injuries constitutes an environmental injury under SEQRA … . Matter of Turner v County of Erie, 2016 NY Slip Op 00806, 4th Dept 2-5-16
ENVIRONMENTAL LAW (PETITIONERS DID NOT ALLEGE ENVIRONMENTAL INJURY, DID NOT HAVE STANDING TO ANNUL NEGATIVE DECLARATION UNDER SEQRA)/STANDING (SEQRA, PETITIONERS DID NOT ALLEGE ENVIRONMENTAL INJURY, DID NOT HAVE STANDING)/STATE ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY REVIEW ACT [SEQRA] (PETITIONERS DID NOT ALLEGE ENVIRONMENTAL INJURY, DID NOT HAVE STANDING TO ANNUL NEGATIVE DECLARATION UNDER SEQRA)