The federal agencies charged with the sale of Plum Island off the coast of Southold have filed a motion for a dismissal of a lawsuit filed by environmental groups last summer that alleged the federal government failed to examine possible conservation uses of the island.
The motion was made Feb. 2 in United States Eastern District Court in Brooklyn.
Connecticut Fund for the Environment and Save the Sound Director of Communications Laura McMillan said the plaintiffs will be filing their response within 30 days and plan to discuss the case with the press at that time.
The lawsuit alleges that the federal government failed to consider conservation alternatives or a bifurcated sale of just the federal animal disease research laboratory facilities on the island, since the original act of Congress authorized the sale of the animal disease research lab infrastructure there, not the whole island.
The suit also alleges the federal government 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 motion to dismiss that the environmental groups’ case lacked “subject matter jurisdiction” because they have not yet finished their environmental review of the sale.
“Because Defendants have not concluded their review, and any potential sale is years away and subject to multiple conditions precedent, the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction,” the defendants said in their motion to dismiss.
They added that the sale is conditional on the completion and subsequent transfer of the lab work to the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) in Manhattan Kansas, the replacement facility for Plum Island, which broke ground in 2015, “which is not likely to occur until at least December 2022.”
“In light of the current congressional mandate, the uniqueness of the Plum Island asset, and the likelihood that environmental features at Plum Island will change over the next half-decade, DHS and GSA have decided to continue their review of any environmental impact that the congressional mandate may have,” they added.