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Steven C. Russo chairs the firm’s New York Environmental Practice. He focuses his practice on environmental law and litigation, environmental permitting, National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) review, toxic tort litigation, environmental crimes, Brownfields redevelopment, government, energy and the environmental aspects of land use and real estate law. Steven is equally experienced litigating in federal and state courts, as well as counseling his clients with regard to environmental liability risk and due diligence, permitting, Brownfields, and impact assessment and review. He also practices election and campaign finance law.

Prior to joining the firm, Steven was the Chief Legal Officer of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. There, he supervised approximately 90 attorneys in Albany, as well as the agency’s nine regional offices. He also supervised the agency’s legislative affairs department and Office of Environmental Justice. At the agency, Steven initiated a reform of the state’s environmental review regulations and assessment forms, completed the issuance of new power plant siting regulations pertaining to environmental justice and carbon emissions and revised the agency’s environmental audit policy.

Steven also serves as election law counsel to a number of New York State and federal campaigns and political parties.

Earlier this year New York state, conceding that its previously enacted siting law had not been effective in siting large-scale renewable energy projects, enacted the Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth and
Continue Reading Pleasing All the People Some of the Time: New York Simultaneously Proposes Regulations Implementing Its New Siting Law and Community Benefit Program for Renewable Projects

On July 15, 2020, President Trump’s administration finalized a significant overhaul of the regulations governing the administration of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). In January 2020, when the regulatory overhaul was announced, we observed that rolling back 50 years of precedent in an administrative action could trigger judicial challenges to the rule and result in greater regulatory uncertainty for federal projects. The final rule, while making some relatively minor modifications, hews closely to its original terms, and does little to satisfy potential challengers.
Continue Reading A Tale of Two Environmental Policies: President Trump Announces NEPA Reform, as Former Vice President Biden Vows to Roll Back Reforms If Elected

With New York Governor Andrew Cuomo pronouncing the state’s process for siting renewable energy projects broken, the New York State legislature late yesterday passed sweeping reforms to the siting of
Continue Reading New York State Legislature Passes Renewable Energy Siting Law In Step Toward Meeting Ambitious Renewable Energy Mandates

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) recently released guidance on what constitutes “essential” construction in support of remedial activities pursuant to Executive Order (EO) 202.6 signed by
Continue Reading New York Environmental Regulator Issues Guidance on Essential Construction in Support of Cleanup Activities

In January 2020, in his annual budget address, New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo proposed a complete overhaul of renewable energy siting. In his 30-day amendments to the executive budget, he proposed the Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth and Community Benefit Act (the “Act”). The proposal would apply to large and mid-sized renewable projects, energy storage, and transmission, as well as directing the state’s agencies and public authorities to establish incentive programs to deliver shovel-ready, permitted sites to developers. The bill signals a shift in thinking about renewable energy siting, from a bureaucratic energy regulatory issue sometimes hindered by fierce local opposition, to an economic development process focused on steering the train of jobs and economic benefits anticipated from renewables over the next decade as a result of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), while continuing to ensure all environmental requirements are met. The bill will need to be approved by the legislature during the state budget negotiations that will occur over the next month.

The Act, weighing in at roughly 40 pages, would consolidate the environmental review and permitting of renewable projects of 25 MW and above, while allowing projects of 10 MW up to 25 MW to opt into the new process. The Act would also provide fast-track siting for co-located energy storage, as well as require regulators to expedite certain transmission projects. The Act would establish a new Office of Renewable Siting within the Department of Economic Development (DED), the state agency arm of the Empire State Development Corporation (ESD). The newly created Office of Renewable Siting would create a permitting system and set uniform standards for siting and construction. It would provide a one-stop shop for environmental review and permitting of covered renewable energy projects, operating under statutory time constraints. Renewable energy projects currently moving through the existing Article 10 siting process would be allowed to opt into the new siting process, which is designed to ensure a determination within the Act’s timeframe.
Continue Reading New York’s Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth and Community Benefit Act Sends Positive Signals to Renewable Energy Developers, and Revamps Renewable Siting

On Feb. 7, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed legislation regulating the presence of toxic chemicals in children’s products and apparel. The governor agreed to the legislation – the
Continue Reading New York’s ‘Toxic Toys’ Law: Governor Signs Legislation Regulating Chemicals in Children’s Products, But Changes to the Law Are Already Coming

In his annual budget address on Jan. 21, 2020, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo proposed a complete overhaul to New York’s siting of renewable energy projects. Noting that siting a project under the current Article 10 process takes 5-10 years to begin construction, the governor found that the current process simply does not work. In a reference to the renewable energy generation goals set forth in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), the governor called setting goals without the means to achieve them “baloney” and went on to propose “flip[ping] the whole model” of renewable siting by having the state acquire potential sites for renewable energy generation, permitting the projects, and delivering shovel-ready sites to developers.

Article 10, signed by Governor Cuomo in 2011, was intended to streamline the siting of large-scale renewable and other major energy generating facilities of 25 megawatts or more. The original generation siting law had a higher threshold that omitted most renewable projects from its scope. Article 10 was meant to be a one-stop shop for environmental, health, and public safety reviews and permitting, allowing for an override of local laws that would unnecessarily impede siting and providing a strong mechanism to counterbalance knee-jerk NIMBYism, thereby allowing siting of needed electrical generation to help ensure safe and reliable service to ratepayers. It established a Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment, commonly referred to as the “siting board,” to accomplish that goal, and provided for the appointment of ad hoc members of the municipality where a project is proposed to be sited, giving a voice to residents.


Continue Reading New York Governor Andrew Cuomo Proposes Radical Reshaping of Siting Process for Renewable Projects

On Jan. 9, 2020, the Trump administration’s Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) proposed rules that would update comprehensively the regulations promulgated under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for the
Continue Reading Trump Administration Proposes Significant Streamlining of National Environmental Policy Act