Environmental Groups Push Forward with Plum Island Lawsuit

Plum Island

One month after the federal government filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought last year by environmentalists over the proposed sale of Plum Island, environmentalists are continuing to push forward with their legal challenge.

The lawsuit filed last summer by a coalition of environmental groups alleges the federal government failed to consider conservation alternatives, failed to consider any form of sale other than a public auction, failed to consider the potential transfer of the island to another government agency, and failed to adequately detail the necessary environmental cleanup of the island.

The plaintiffs include Connecticut Fund for the Environment/Save the Sound and Soundkeeper, Group for the East End, Peconic Baykeeper; birder and environmental advocate John Turner; CT/RI Coastal Flyfishers President John Potter and historian and author Ruth Ann Bramson of East Marion, lead author of “A World Unto Itself: The Remarkable History of Plum Island, NY.”

The defendants, which include the United States General Services Administration, United States Department of Homeland Security, and the administrators of those agencies, said in their Feb. 2 motion to dismiss that the environmental groups’ case lacked “subject matter jurisdiction” because the federal government has not yet finished its environmental review of the sale.

In their March 2 response, the plaintiffs said they “need not wait until bulldozers descend on Plum Island to bring this challenge” and that their claims “were ripe the moment the defendants issued their flawed Final Environmental Impact Statement [FEIS]” in 2013.

Connecticut Fund For the Environment Legal Director Roger Reynolds described the defendents’ motion to dismiss as “procedural wrangling” in an interview March 6.

“They’re claiming the court shouldn’t hear the case because they haven’t sold the island yet,” he said. “The FEIS is final for the purpose of the National Environmental Policy Act. This will go before the judge.”

Mr. Reynolds said the defendants need to submit their final reply to the U.S. District Court by March 16, and he expects the case to go before a judge sometime lat this summer.

According to the plaintiffs’ response, “the defendants, through the EIS process, misconstrued their statutory mandate, ignored environmentally preferable alternatives, failed to consider a variety of important government interests, and otherwise failed to comply with the rigerous requirements of NEPA. Defendants do not contest these allegations. Instead, they argue that they might, at some future time, conduct a supplemental EIS process which might correct these mistakes.”

The full text of their response is online here.

Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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