Issued on June 27, 2011 by the Mayor, Executive Order 149 of 2011 continues to authorize the Office to perform the same duties regarding environmental review as those in Executive Order 97 of 2006 which it supercedes. These supplement the duties of the Office described in Title 62 of the Rules of the City of New York, Chapter 5.
The City put into place Executive Order No. 87, which indicated that all major projects must have their environmental impacts assessed. This order was an interpretation of NEPA, the National Environmental Policy Act.
New York State enacted the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA), which requires all state and local government agencies to assess the environmental effects of discretionary actions before undertaking, funding, or approving these actions, with certain exceptions.
SEQRA regulations allow local governments to promulgate their own environmental review procedures, provided that they are no less protective of the environment than state procedures. In 1977, New York City exercised this prerogative with Executive Order No. 91, which established CEQR and centralized most environmental review functions in two "co-lead agencies," the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Department of City Planning (DCP).
In order to expedite environmental reviews within the City and to ensure their consistency with applicable statutory and decisional law, the City's Environmental Quality Review process was substantially modified by the CEQR Rules of Procedure, which were superimposed on Executive Order No. 91 and adopted by the City Planning Commission. The previous system of having all environmental reviews go through "co-lead agencies" (DEP and DCP) was discarded in favor of a system in which each City agency acts as lead agency for projects that it approves, funds, and/or directly implements.
OEC was set up as a policy office to complement and support the new "lead agency" approach embodied by the 1991 Rules of Procedure.