The legal wrangling may have begun over Prop 5.
Four environmental advocacy groups have joined with a California environmental “law organization” to express their concerns over the recent passage of a state constitutional amendment allowing for a land swap between the State of New York and NYCO Minerals, based in Willsboro with mining operations in Lewis.
The land swap would allow the state and NYCO to exchange parcels of land so the mineral company could continue to mine for Wollastonite, a mineral used in paint, plastics used in the automobile industry, brake pads and linings, ceramics, construction materials and more. NYCO officials believe the land swap will keep their business viable in the Lewis and Willsboro area for at least another decade.
Voters passed Proposition 5, allowing for the land swap, during the November General Election after two consecutive green lights from the state legislature. The Proposition received backing from numerous government and economic groups, as well as receiving the blessing of the Adirondack Council, the Elizabethtown-based environmental watchdog group.
However Earthjustice, a San Fransisco-based legal firm whose mission, according to their website, is to act as; “a non-profit public interest law organization dedicated to protecting the magnificent places, natural resources, and wildlife of this earth, and to defending the right of all people to a healthy environment,” recently sent a letter to New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens on behalf of Adirondack Wild, Protect the Adirondacks, the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter and Atlantic States Legal Foundation.
In the 13-page letter signed by Earthjustice Managing Attorney Deborah Goldberg, the organization states its belief that any mining operations on the Lewis property known as Lot 8 would still be illegal under several state laws.
“Although Proposal Number Five exempted Lot 8 from the ‘forever wild’ mandate and other protections... for the narrow purposes approved by the voters, the listed requirements remain unchanged, and the amendment imposed new requirements for implementing legislation,” Goldberg said in her letter.
Goldberg said that the property still comes under all, “non-constitutional protections,” including the State Environmental Quality Review Act, the State Administrative Procedures Act, the Mined Land Reclamation Act, the Freshwater Wetlands Act, Adirondack Park Agency Act, Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan, Jay Mountain Wilderness Unit Management Plan and New York Environmental Conservation Law, among others.
“We also ask... that DEC will fulfill its obligations under all of those unaltered, non-constitutional provisions before permitting NYCO to conduct any minerals sampling operations in Lot 8,” Goldberg wrote.
The letter was sent to the DEC after it announced intentions to publish a draft Temporary Revocable Permit (TRP) authorizing NYCO to engage in mineral sampling operations, “notwithstanding the protections afforded to such land.”
Goldberg states that the state cannot make the land swap with NYCO until new legislation is passed revising current land management plans and a SEQRA is completed. She further stated that the state had 15 days to acknowledge their list of concerns and state that they, “intend to comply fully with them.”
The DEC has pointed to a court case, Durante v. Evans, in order to “abrogate,” law governing the, “approximately 200 acres of forest preserve land contained in Lot 8.” Goldberg contended that decision does not apply in this matter.