In April 2021, Red Rock Quarry Associates, LLC (Red Rock) submitted a permit application to the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) seeking approval for a new major granite mining project on a 56-acre parcel of land located in the Town of Forestport, Oneida County, in the western Adirondack Park. The project site is a forested parcel of land lying directly adjacent to the residential communities that surround White Lake, a picturesque and quiet water body, and Little Long Lake. The White Lake community is comprised of both year-round and seasonal residents, including approximately 445 homeowners who are members of the Adirondack White Lake Association (AWLA). Numerous residences are in close proximity to the mine site, with approximately 20 homes located within one quarter mile.
The siting of the new granite mine in the midst of this peaceful residential community makes no sense. The new mining operation will involve drilling, blasting, on-site crushing of rock, and up to twenty heavy-duty truck trips per day entering and leaving the site. Mining operations will occur from April 1 through October 31, Monday through Friday, commencing at 7:00 AM and concluding at 6:00 PM, and on Saturdays starting at 7:00 AM and running until noon. Drilling will occur Monday through Friday, from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., and blasting will be allowed twice a day, Monday through Friday, between the hours of 9:00 AM and 3:00 PM. These mining activities are proposed to occur for the next 25 years over approximately 26 acres.
The AWLA and other stakeholders strenuously opposed intrusion of the new mine into their community. More than 3,000 public comments opposing the proposed mining project were received by the APA, including more than 300 individual comments, 1,432 form letters, and 1,400 petition signatures. In addition, the AWLA submitted a 60-page report prepared by an environmental consulting firm that identified significant deficiencies in Red Rock’s application, including the failure by the applicant to comply with key aspects of the Department of Environmental Conservation (“DEC”) noise policy in assessing the project’s noise impacts on the neighboring residential community.
See a comment letter from Protect the Adirondacks, background information, letter from PACE Environmental Law Clinic calling for an adjudicatory hearing, and a group letter in opposition to this project submitted to the APA.
The consultant report also criticized the applicant’s failure to accurately identify the location of the principal drinking water aquifer underlying the project site and to accurately determine the separation between the lowest proposed mine floor elevation. Based on the application deficiencies and the widespread public opposition to the project, the AWLA and others urged the APA to hold an adjudicatory hearing on the Red Rock application.
The Red Rock application was considered by the APA Board at its meeting on January 13 and 14, 2022. Despite the fact that the APA Board needed to determine whether to hold an adjudicatory hearing on the application, at no time during their presentation to the Board did the Agency staff present, discuss, or analyze the Agency’s regulatory criteria for holding an adjudicatory hearing. Instead, Agency staff repeatedly alluded to a fabricated criteria that does not appear in either the APA Act or the Agency’s regulations to dismiss the option of holding an adjudicatory hearing. Both the APA Project Review Officer and the APA Counsel incorrectly stated to the Board that an adjudicatory hearing is only required where there are “unclear facts” – a standard that simply does not exist and reduces the eight-factor regulatory test to a single (erroneous) criterion.
Moreover, the Agency staff’s presentation was biased and one-sided, because it failed to inform the APA Board of the full extent of public opposition to the project; mischaracterized the project’s impacts on the neighboring residential community; deprived the Board of a full and fair presentation of issues for adjudication because the staff had already decided that there would be no adjudicatory hearing; and concealed and mischaracterized the APA’s regulatory criteria for holding an adjudicatory hearing. The APA Board determined not to hold an adjudicatory hearing on the Red Rock application and the permit was issued that same day.
In its first 35 years of existence, the APA held over 150 formal adjudicatory hearing on issues where facts were in dispute and/or the project was a matter of public controversy. Since 2010, the APA has held zero adjudicatory hearings, openly thwarting the spirit, letter, and intent of the APA Act and its rules and regulations.
In March 2022, PROTECT, in collaboration with the Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic, filed a legal challenge on behalf of the AWLA to the APA’s determination not to hold an adjudicatory hearing on the Red Rock application. The lawsuit seeks to annual the permit and to have the court direct the APA to hold an adjudicatory hearing as required by the APA Act and the Agency’s implementing regulations.
The trial court dismissed the lawsuit without considering–or even mentioning–the more than 3,000 public comments opposing the proposed project and without considering or discussing the APA’s eight regulatory criteria for holding an adjudicatory hearing. PROTECT has appealed the trial court ruling and oral argument in the appeal is scheduled for January 2024.
Click here to read State Supreme Court of Oneida County opinion ruling in favor of APA-White Lake Granite Quarry
Click here to read PROTECT/AWLA appeal.
Click here to read the state’s response to the appeal.