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Syracuse v. Onondaga County

ELR Citation: 36 ELR 20199
Nos. No. 04-0718, (2d Cir., 09/21/2006)

The court upheld an interlocutory order joining a city as a third-party defendant in an environmental group's 14-year-old Clean Water Act (CWA) action against a county, but certified to the New York Court of Appeals questions concerning the county's condemnation power. Parties to the underlying CWA action entered into a consent agreement requiring the county to clean up a lake and improve its sewer system. The county opted to construct a sewage treatment facility on city-owned land, but the city rejected the purchase offer. The county then sought to join the city as parties to the litigation, arguing that joinder was necessary to implement the terms of the consent agreement. Joinder was proper because the city had been involved in the litigation and had participated in several discussions regarding the remedial measures to be implemented under the consent agreement. But because unsettled and significant issues of state law concerning the county's condemnation powers are central to the case, the court certified to the state's highest court questions concerning which county entities had the authority to condemn city-owned land and whether the prior public use doctrine applied.