ALBANY: The New York State Court of Appeals has refused to hear Save the Pine Bush’s case regarding the proposed warehouses on Wood Road in Clifton Park. By not hearing our appeal, the Court of Appeals allows the lower court’s decision dismissing our case on standing to be the final ruling in the case,
The court room is barred to Save the Pine Bush. We lost on “standing”, meaning Save the Pine Bush has no right to bring a case against the Town of Clifton Park over protection of the endangered Karner Blue butterfly.
This is a sad day for the rule of law in New York State. Barring citizens from suing their government representatives to enforce the State Environmental Quality Review Act will result in municipalities ignoring environmental law. The teeth have been removed from SEQRA.
Who can enforce SEQRA? Only citizens. However, citizens have been barred from the court.
Much has been written about “frivolous lawsuits” and “tort reform” with much ink about how our courts are too crowded and how trial lawyers are just out to make the poor corporations suffer.
What is not written about is what happens when citizens are barred from taking their grievances to court? What happens when people are no longer allowed to come to court to peacefully solve their differences? What type of society do we have that tells citizens they cannot come into court to resolve their differences in a peaceful and rational manner?
Much has been written about the details of the Wood Road Clifton Park litigation in the SPB newsletters and on the website.
The case boils down to one question: Does Save the Pine Bush have the right to sue to protect the Karner Blues? The Court of Appeals has answered “NO”.
The next step is legislative reform. Clearly, when the NYS Legislature enacted the State Environmental Quality Review Act, the legislature wanted an open process to allow citizens to comment and participate in reviewing environmental issues. The time has come to call on the NYS Legislature to amend the SEQRA to outline who has standing to sue a municipality over SEQRA. A bill called “The Environmental Access to Justice Act”, bill #S.5182 in the Senate has been introduced and now needs to be passed.
If the restrictive standing rules had been in effect in 1978 when Save the Pine Bush filed its first lawsuit, we never would have made it into court. If we had not gone to court, there would be no Pine Bush left today. Permitting citizens to sue over SEQRA protects the environment for everyone.
Call your NYS Assembly member and NYS Senator today and demand that SEQRA be amended to permit citizens to sue over environmental issues and demand passage of the Environmental Access to Justice Act. Or, volunteer for Save the Pine Bush to lobby the NYS Legislature on this issue. Call Lynne Jackson at 434-1954 to volunteer or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published in the July/August 2008 Newsletter