With concerns regarding the new presidential administration’s views on the environment on high alert, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo recently announced that New York intends to sue the United States Environmental Protection Agency and challenge EPA’s decision to designate the eastern Long Island Sound as a permanent disposal site for dredged materials. In a letter filed by his office, New York informed the federal government that the EPA’s designation of the eastern Long Island Sound as a disposal site is a direct violation of the designation criteria outlined in existing federal law, referred to as the “Ocean Dumping Act.”
“As I have said time and again, New York is deeply concerned with the EPA’s efforts to designate a permanent dumping site in the eastern part of the Long Island Sound,”Cuomo said. “Continuing to use this precious economic and ecological resource as a dumping ground is unacceptable and—on behalf of current and future generations of New Yorkers—we intend to fight this decision using any and all legal means.”
New York’s notice of intent to sue came on the same day as the EPA’s publication of its final rule designating the disposal site. The State must now wait 60 days from the date of the letter before filing a legal claim against the EPA under the Ocean Dumping Act.
New York Secretary of State Rossana Rosado said, “I commend Governor Cuomo for this action to prevent the disposal of dredged material in the Eastern Long Island Sound. We remain committed to protecting these waters, which serve many New Yorkers in so many ways.”
Cuomo also found support from New York State Senator-elect Elaine Phillips, who was joined last month by East End Senator Ken LaValle and Assemblyman Fred Thiele in urging Cuomo to step in and take action to stop the plan.
“I applaud Governor Cuomo’s announcement of legal action by the state to stop the federal EPA from dumping toxic dredging sludge in the Long Island Sound,” Phillips said in a released statement. “Even though the EPA says its offshore dump site will be located in Connecticut’s waters, heavy metals and other dangerous pollutants don’t recognize lines on a map, and this plan has the potential to undo years of difficult work to protect and enhance water quality in the Sound and across the region. We need to find ways to better protect our surface and groundwater, and I am prepared to stand with the Governor and other local elected leaders to continue to oppose this dumping plan.”
Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said, “Long Island Sound is an essential economic and environmental treasure in New York and one in which the state has invested billions to restore. DEC commends Governor Cuomo’s resolve in ensuring this vital estuary is not turned into a dumping ground.”
In 2005, New York State called for, and EPA subsequently established, a regulatory goal of reducing or eliminating dredged material disposal in the open waters of the Long Island Sound. The EPA’s plan to allow new dumping sites in eastern Long Island Sound contradicts this agreement.
According to an examination conducted by the New York Departments of State and Environmental Conservation, the EPA has not sufficiently considered the cumulative effects of dumping dredged materials into the Sound, did not prioritize alternatives to open water dumping, and didn’t go far enough in analyzing other available disposal sites.
New York also maintains that increasing the volume of open-water disposal of dredged materials, and the number and availability of open water disposal sites, is inconsistent with public investment and policies that are already in place aimed at restoring the Long Island Sound. Further, the EPA has not been responsive to the State’s concern about the sediment testing and its reliability and has made insufficient assurances that the dredged material will not have a negative impact on the environment.