Environmental groups jointly filed a lawsuit on Friday to challenge the state Adirondack Park Agency's approval of exploratory drilling on 200 acres of state Forest Preserve land.
The lawsuit was filed against the state Department of Environmental Conservation, the APA and NYCO Minerals, a mining company based in Lewis. The environmental groups - Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve, Atlantic States Legal Foundation, Protect the Adirondacks and the Sierra Club - held a press conference in Albany announcing the decision.
"The Article 78 lawsuit seeks to stop mineral exploration in the Jay Mountain Wilderness until the State complies with all applicable laws," the groups stated in a press release. "The groups contend that a constitutional amendment (Proposition 5) narrowly approved by the voters last November suspended one layer of protection for Lot 8, but all other legal requirements protective of Wilderness areas remain in full force and effect."
The Jay Mountain Wilderness is seen in the background behind NYCO Minerals’ mine in Lewis in June 2013.
(Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)
NYCO plans to test drill for wollastonite to determine the amount and quality of the mineral on Forest Preserve land named Lot 8. The state will then determine the lands value as part of a land swap. The APA unanimously approved the decision to amend the unit management plan for the Jay Mountain Wilderness at a meeting in June, allowing the exploratory mining to advance.
APA State Land Committee planner Kathy Regan said at a recent APA meeting that the passage of the constitutional amendment last November "overrides the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan guidelines for wilderness, which would otherwise prohibit mineral exploration on Lot 8."
The lead attorney for the environmental groups offered a stark difference of opinion.
"The State's theory of implicit repeal leaves APA and DEC operating in a complete legal vacuum," lead attorney Deborah Goldberg, of Earthjustice, wrote in the press release. "The agencies now are violating numerous laws, are ignoring their own internal procedures, and generally are proceeding in an entirely arbitrary and ad hoc manner."
Mineral sampling by NYCO Minerals will require the cutting of up to 1,200 trees and will take place over a period of six to eight months. The environmental groups urged the state not to rush to judgment with exploratory drilling on Lot 8.