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Lighthouse Pointe Property Assocs., LLC v. New York State Dep't of Envtl. Conservation

Citation: 40 ELR 20048
No. No. 3, (N.Y., 02/18/2010)

New York’s highest court affirmed a lower court decision that denied petitioners, who own and operate a hydroelectric dam, a CPLR article 78 petition in the nature of prohibition to prevent the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) from bringing an administrative enforcement proceeding against them for the violation of a variety of state water quality laws. DEC commenced an enforcement proceeding against petitioners related to an alleged release of sediment from a dam. Petitioners argued that DEC’s authority over a federally regulated dam was preempted by federal law, and DEC was therefore proceeding in excess of its jurisdiction. The court held that petitioners failed to establish a clear legal right to relief or that prohibition would provide a more complete and efficacious remedy than the administrative proceeding and resulting judicial review. Petitioners have not clearly established that DEC’s enforcement action is in excess of its jurisdiction. Whether the causes of action fall within the state’s power to determine that construction and operation of the project as planned would be inconsistent with one of the designated uses of the water should be determined, in the first instance, through the administrative process.