Judge Dismisses Challenge To NYCO Adirondack Land Swap

Dec 12, 2014

NYCO Lewis mine
Credit Protect the Adirondacks

A mine project in the Adirondacks can go forward. That’s the word from the New York State Supreme Court this week.

The constitutional amendment approved by voters in November 2013 would allow the NYCO Mining company to obtain 200 acres of Adirondack Forest Preserve land next to its mine in exchange for 1,500 acres of pristine forest land. The mining company would also eventually reclaim the 200 acres and return them to the forest preserve.

Because it involves state protected Forest Preserve land, the deal had to be approved through a constitutional amendment. NYCO Mining subsequently planned to conduct mineral sampling on the 200-acre parcel. Four groups sued, challenging that permit. A restraining order was issued while the case was reviewed.

State Supreme Court Justice Thomas Buchanan has now dismissed the lawsuit and restraining order. Protect the Adirondacks was among the plaintiffs. Executive Director Peter Bauer is disappointed.   “One of our arguments in opposing this amendment was that we didn’t know how it was going to be implemented. And nobody could tell us what rules were going to be followed, what laws were going to be followed. And unfortunately when the state came around to implementing this amendment last spring they really cut a lot of corners, we felt, with the state land master plan and the existing other state environmental laws to the detriment of this piece of forest preserve. Which, tho’ the mining company is allowed to conduct mineral exploration activities, it remains forever wild forest preserve.”

Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve joined Protect as a plaintiff. Partner Dan Plumley says the judge chose to deny all their main arguments, despite the unique impact on the integrity of environmental conservation law and implementation of the state land master plan for wilderness.   “We’re concerned about the environmental impacts, which we brought before the judge, that were not adequately evaluated, if at all, by the Department of Environmental Conservation and the Adirondack Park Agency in their review and permitting. Which is why we felt compelled to go to court. The judge however ruled that both agencies had done the required investigation for environmental review. That’s obviously an issue that we  disagree with him on.”

Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board Executive Director Fred Monroe notes that NYCO Mining is a major employer in that area of the Adirondacks. He calls the judge’s ruling crucial to the economy of the region.   “It’s over a hundred jobs. Then with the multiplier effect, with the spin-off jobs, it’s about 300 jobs.  This greatly extends the amount of time that it can remain in operation.”

The Adirondack Council supported the constitutional amendment because the swap would result in more and better lands in the Jay Mountain Wilderness Area.  But spokesman John Sheehan says they aren’t taking sides in the lawsuit.   “We think that it’s important for the state to follow all the rules and regulations that still apply to these lands. We don’t believe in short cuts where the Constitution or the Forest Preserve are concerned.  Ultimately the organization is supportive of the swap. But we’re not convinced that all of the questions about how it’s going to be carried out  have been answered yet.”

Sheehan also doesn’t sense any concern over possible adverse delays for NYCO due to the lawsuit.   “NYCO has permission to operate and expand in its second location. So it’s not as if the company’s mining is going to halt as a result of the latest from the court case.  The APA gave them a permit recently to continue at the other site. The company should be fine while the court case is playing out.”

The plaintiffs are reviewing the judge’s ruling and have 30 days to decide if they will appeal.