Save the Pine Bush Loses in Clifton Park

ALBANY: The NYS Appellate Division dismissed Save the Pine Bush case’s case suing the Town of Clifton Park Planning Board over a proposed development on Wood Road that is occupied Karner Blue. The Court said Save the Pine Bush does not have standing or the right to bring the case to court.

Save the Pine Bush lawyer, Peter Henner, said of the case: “I am very disappointed by the court’s ruling. Although it has become very difficult for any environmental organization to establish standing, I was hopeful that the Appellate Division would recognize that the Town of Clifton Park’s approval of the Wood Road development rewarded DCG for its action in keeping the Department of Environmental Conservation off the site, while it completed the destruction of Karner Blue habitat. SEQRA contemplates that the public should have an opportunity to oppose such an action: however, the court’s ruling that standing is limited to adjacent property owners frustrates the plain legislative intention of SEQRA and effectively prohibits anyone who is interested in the preservation of endangered species from challenging governmental action.

“This decision is a sad day for the environment: although SEQRA was intended to create a level playing field for environmental challenges, the court has locked environmental activists out of the arena.

“Nor was this decision required by the Court of Appeals ruling in Society of Plastics. Nothing in Plastics required a showing of harm unique to a particular individual where, as here, the effect is general. Just as no one should have to show a particular interest in opposing a governmental plan to allow the dumping of garbage in the streets, because everyone would be injured, so too, no one should have to show a unique injury where governmental action ratifies the destruction of an endangered species’ habitat.”

Lynne Jackson stated, “Save the Pine Bush is shocked at the Appellate Division’s ruling. This ruling removes the last remaining teeth from the NYS Environmental Quality Review Act. By not allowing us into the court room, the Appellate Division has told citizens that local municipalities are able to ignore the requirements of SEQRA. Oversite of government actions by citizens has been removed.

“This ruling means that a group of citizens cannot sue over the actions of a local municipality if the action is a harm to every member of the public. The loss of an endangered species, the Karner Blue butterfly, harms all members of the public equally. Thus, since neither Save the Pine Bush nor the individual plaintiffs in this suit suffer a harm different than the harm suffered by everyone, we do not have a right to sue to protect the endangered Karner Blue.”