A state appellate court ruling yesterday on a Southampton Town sand mine controversy may directly impact the proposed expansion of a sand mine on a site off Osborn and Youngs avenues in Calverton.
The court annulled permits issued by the State Department of Environmental Conservation to Sand Land Corporation in Southampton because, the court ruled, the DEC ignored the State Environmental Conservation Law provision that prohibits the agency from issuing mining permits under certain circumstances.
The state law, signed to prevent the pollution of groundwater, prohibits the DEC from even reviewing a mining permit application on Long Island if local codes prohibit mining. Both Southampton and Riverhead’s zoning laws prohibit mining.
The State DEC has interpreted the statute to apply to new applications only — not to applications to expand existing mines.
The court yesterday dispensed with that notion. The statute, it held, “is not vague or ambiguous; it is concise and clear.” Every application received from an area protected under the statute “must be put on hold until the status of the local laws is determined,” the court said. “There is no qualification on what type of permit applications must be put on hold; rather, by its certain language, the statute applies to all applications.”
Riverhead filed a brief in December supporting Southampton’s case in the Sand Land appeal.
Riverhead Town also hired the same law firm that represents Southampton and in February sued the DEC over its handling of the application of CMA Mine in Calverton.
CMA Mine has applied to the State DEC for a permit to expand a 15-acre mine vertically, excavating to a depth of 100 feet — 89 feet below the groundwater table — and creating an 8.5-acre lake on the site. The mine site, on the corner of Osborn and Youngs avenues, is adjacent to the town’s closed and capped landfill.
In its lawsuit, the town is asking the court to void the DEC’s negative declaration/determination of non-significance. The state should have required an in-depth environmental review, the town argues.
The town also argues that the DEC processed the application in direct violation of State Environmental Conservation Law provision litigated in the Sand Land case.
State Assemblyman Fred Thiele today called the decision “a home run for home rule.”
The issue for Riverhead lines up exactly with the appellate court’s ruling, he said.
Where the town’s laws prohibit mining, “DEC cannot process the application, let alone issue the permit,” The court said in the Sand Land decision. “Therefore, the act of issuing the permits here … was arbitrary and capricious.”
Thiele said based on yesterday’s decision, “all the DEC permits would have to be annulled,” Thiele said. “The DEC simply didn’t follow its own law.”
A spokesperson for the DEC said the agency is reviewing the decision.
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