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Abstract

Ever since the Court of Appeals of New York issued its holding in the landmark case Society of Plastics Industry, Inc. v. County of Suffolk, citizen oversight of government-approved and government projects with environmental implications has suffered curtailment inconsistent with the objectives of the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA). At the center of the conflict between SEQRA and citizen enforcement are the restrictive standing requirements formulated by Society of Plastics, which include the demand that a petitioner demonstrate harm distinct from injury to the general public. Not only does such a prerequisite for consideration of a case's merits ignore the interrelatedness of local environmental conditions with larger regional trends, but also insulates from judicial review widespread environmental damages that injure the public.

Beyond New York, numerous other states have developed standing doctrines that more capably match the purposes of their environmental protection acts and address the ecological complexities of environmental harms yet also prevent frivolous complaints from disrupting judicial efficiency. New York State, through the example set by other jurisdictions and through recognizing the unreasonable outcomes of post-Society of Plastics cases is well situated to reform its environmental standing doctrine through judicial action or legislation. This article will first outline the current status of citizen standing to enforce SEQRA in Part II; then III) highlight the manner in which New York's standing doctrine has diverged from SEQRA's goals; IV) examine more effective environmental standing doctrines in other states; V) suggest precedent New York courts could utilize to correct New York's defective standing requirements; and, finally, VI) offer a legislative solution to the deficiency of the standing requirements engendered by Society of Plastics