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Why is DEC in the fight?

December 3, 2008 - John Stack

Recently, the DEC has decided to file an ‘amicus curiae’ brief in the lawsuit brought by opponents of the planned resort in Tupper Lake. DEC spokeswoman Lori Severino said the DEC filed an amicus brief because the agency thought it would be helpful to the court to hear the DEC's interpretation of a law it is charged with administering. Using this wording, it seems as if DEC is claiming they are filing the brief out of the purely idealistic reasons, and have no real other need to be in the case. That remains to be seen.

          As background, the original lawsuit was dismissed in Nov 2007. An appeal was filed in September.

          The DEC seems to claim that the Town did not review for themselves if there would be any adverse environmental impacts, and that they just accepted that the APA would do it for them, and they accepted it. State Assistant Attorney General Susan Taylor wrote “… it (the town) may not delegate to APA its own obligation to take a hard look at the environmental impacts before taking final legal action," . It seems presumptuous and unreasonable that the DEC is claiming that the town did not take ‘a hard look’ at the ramifications. This topic has dominated Tupper Lake for years now, and Tupper Lake officials haven’t tried to dot every ‘I’ and cross every ‘t’? It also seems they are not even saying the APA review was inadequate, but that the town should have done their own SEQR study? If the APA review was inadequate, why aren’t they fighting that? If the APA review WAS adequate, why is this going on?

          There seems to be multiple motivational factors involved here. Of course, the motivation for the RCPA is obvious, in that they are not in favor of a project of this size. That is understandable. But why does DEC have or want a dog in this fight? Do they need to get into this to show the type of power they yield over projects such as this? As it doesn’t seem like DEC is taking a stand on the merits of the project, or the adequacy of the SEQR-type review the APA did, there seems to be some other reason to be involved. Possibly, they are hoping there is a positive ruling for the plaintiffs, which could strengthen DEC enforce powers. Currently, people get local building permits and DEC okays, and think they are covered. Later, after construction, they often find out they also needed APA approval. Does DEC need to make these hurdles even more burdensome?

If and when the resort gets final approval, we taxpayers are the ones who will of course be the ones paying. It costs money to taxpayers for any judicial hearing. It of course has cost the Attorney General’s office a bunch of taxpayer money to file this brief. Also, any delay in building this resort, will only hurt the local taxing jurisdictions for the holdup in any economic windfall they might see from the project.


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