ASLF Urban Tree Nursery – Official ground-breaking on April 24, 2015

The Nursery reclaims an abandoned vacant lot and creates unique greenspace in the City to grow and distribute native, genetically local trees. This nursery will be the first of its kind in the City of Syracuse and will be a model for others elsewhere.


NYCO Lawsuit Moves Ahead

ASLF has a lawsuit in progress in the Adirondack Park concerning “Lot 8,” a 200-acre Forest Preserve parcel in the Jay Mountain Wilderness Area of the Champlain Valley.  Readers may recall that this parcel was the subject of an amendment to Article 14 of the State Constitution, the “forever wild” provision, on the ballot last November as Proposal 5.  It allowed a private company, NYCO Minerals, Inc. to expand its existing wollastonite mine into this State land.

Despite strong opposition by several environmental organizations, including ASLF, the amendment passed 53-47%, allowing NYCO as a first step to undertake test drilling to determine the quantity and quality of the mineral is sufficiently adequate to proceed with full-scale open pit mining.  If NYCO goes ahead, the company would submit an appraisal of Lot 8, including forestland value and mineral value, to the State Legislature.  This would be a basis for determining how much NYCO should pay for Lot 8 with acres of private forestland to be added to the Forest Preserve.

This is not a “land swap” in the usual sense where, as in the past, all of the rules were established in advance by the State Legislature.  One of the loose ends is that while test drilling is in progress Lot 8 it is still Forest Preserve, subject to all of the protections afforded in State law.  The problem is that in implementing the test drilling the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) and NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) have picked and chosen to obey some State laws but not others.  For example, they have bypassed an adequate review under the State Environmental Quality Review Act and completely ignored the need to amend the Adirondack State Land Master Plan.

To allow this to become normal procedure without objection would greatly undermine Forest Preserve protection.  Another major issue is that DEC drastically undervalued the natural resources of Lot 8 which was acquired as tax sale land that was added to the Forest Preserve in 1885.  The diverse forest there now is nearly “old growth,” rich in ecological values.

Since last January, ASLF, represented pro bono by Deborah Goldberg of the New York City office of Earthjustice, the national not-for-profit environmental law firm, has been telling APA and DEC that they must obey all of the applicable State laws, not just those that they feel like obeying.  Mintz Levin, et al, a New York law firm is partnering, pro bono, with Earthjustice.  Also, besides the Atlantic Chapter there are three other clients – Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve, Protect the Adirondacks! and the Atlantic Chapter of the Sierra Club.  (Ms. Goldberg recently won the fracking case for New York’s local governments, upholding their home rule power to pass zoning that bars heavy industry within municipal borders.)

Despite strong efforts to obtain compliance from APA and DEC, these State agencies, under direction of Governor Cuomo’s staff, have issued their approvals for the test drilling.  However, on July 14, Earthjustice-Mintz Levin filed in State Supreme Court in Essex County and obtained a “TRO” (Temporary Restraining Order) to prevent NYCO from proceeding with test drilling.  On October 24 oral arguments will be heard in Schenectady County Supreme Court where a request will be made for a preliminary injunction against NYCO while the case is in progress.

A good outcome would be that DEC and APA would be required to start the process over, this time obeying all applicable State laws, and to re-study the resource values Lot 8.  There is plenty of time to do this, as NYCO has decades of reserve ore deposits to mine and has just applied to the State to greatly expand its existing mine next to Lot 8 and a nearby mine at Oakhill – facts that NYCO withheld from the voting public last November when they said they soon would be out of ore, would have to dismiss all 105 employees and go out of business, unless they obtained Lot 8.

Written by Charles C. Morrison, former Director of Natural Resources Planning, Executive Division, NYS DEC and long-time member of ASLF.

Can you imagine a future without the Adirondack Park?

ASLF has joined forces with other environmental organizations to protect the Adirondacks, and we have some good news!  We have succeeded in obtaining a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against the State and NYCO Minerals, until August 22, prohibiting any damaging activities on the 200-acre Lot 8 of the Forest Preserve in the Jay Mt. Wilderness, such as felling trees, building roads through old growth forest, drilling, etc.  On August 22 we will appear in court to argue for a permanent injunction.  We have partnered with Adirondack Wild, Protect the Adirondacks!, and the Atlantic Chapter of the Sierra Club with Earthjustice, a national nonprofit, environmental law firm as our counsel.  The Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky, Popeo law firm in NYC is co-counsel.

Our lawsuit challenges the Adirondack Park Agency (APA), New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), and NYCO Minerals to adhere to all State laws and regulations that are applicable to Forest Preserve land while test drilling is in progress.  DEC and APA were taking shortcuts in implementing Proposition 5 on last November’s ballot, which narrowly passed (53-47%) and allows NYCO to do open pit mining of Lot 8 after first test drilling.  DEC and APA are applying some laws to this Forest Preserve land, but not others.

The four groups and their counsels sent detailed warning letters to DEC and APA in January, April and May and met with them in April in Albany.  On July 9 these agencies issued the final Unit Management Plan (UMP) amendment and Temporary Revokable Permit (TRP) anyway, forcing our lawsuit as expected.

Winning this court fight is important; if we lose, it will set a bad precedent that may allow the State to pick and choose which laws to apply in other Forest Preserve situations.  We ask you to give what you can to help with costs for expenses associated with this legal fight.  Let’s do what we can to protect one of New York State’s greatest treasures, the “forever wild” Adirondack Forest Preserve.

To donate, please visit, and mention that you would like your money to go towards saving the Adirondacks.

Background Reading:

Then & Now: ASLF and the Clean Water Act, Section 316

More than 30 years ago, ASLF began as an organization tirelessly pursuing citizen enforcement of the Clean Water Act (CWA) throughout the United States. Hundreds of cases have since been fought by ASLF, including ASLF vs. New York State Gas & Electric and ASLF vs. The Puerto Rico Electric and Power Authority, both directly related to recent changes in Section 316 of the CWA implemented by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Section 316 includes regulations to prevent harmful chemical and thermal pollution from entering all ‘navigable waters,’ often introduced by ‘cooling waters’ used by factories and power plants.

“Thousands of industrial facilities use large volumes of cooling water from lakes, rivers, estuaries or oceans to cool their plants. Cooling water intake structures cause adverse environmental impact by pulling large numbers of fish and shellfish or their eggs into a power plant’s or factory’s cooling system. There, the organisms may be killed or injured by heat, physical stress, or by chemicals used to clean the cooling system. Larger organisms may be killed or injured when they are trapped against screens at the front of an intake structure.”(United States Environmental Protection Agency, 2014)

 The U.S. Government uses the term “navigable waters” to define the water bodies in which it has jurisdiction:

“The term “navigable waters” of the United States means “navigable waters” as defined in section 502(7) of the FWPCA, and includes: (1) all navigable waters of the United States, as defined in judicial decisions prior to the passage of the 1972 Amendments of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, (FWPCA) (Pub. L. 92-500) also known as the Clean Water Act (CWA), and tributaries of such waters as; (2) interstate waters; (3) intrastate lakes, rivers, and streams which are utilized by interstate travelers for recreational or other purposes; and (4) intrastate lakes, rivers, and streams from which fish or shellfish are taken and sold in interstate commerce.”(United States Enviornmental Protection Agency, 2014)

ASLF’s involvement with Section 316 of the CWA began with a lawsuit against the New York State Gas & Electric (NYSG&E) company for thermal discharges into the Susquehanna River in the mid 1980’s. Eventually, an agreeable settlement was reached by ASLF and NYSG&E to meet CWA requirements and minimize further damage to the Susquehanna River and its ecological systems.

Approximately five years later, ASLF launched an effort to protect three bays in Puerto Rico (Jobos Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, Guayanilla Bay, and San Juan Bay) after a review of Discharge Monitoring Reports indicated serious and ongoing violations by Puerto Rico Electric and Power Authority (PREPA) at four of its power generating plants. On April 29, 1991, ASLF put PREPA on Notice of Intent to Sue, citing violations of wastewater permit limitations under the federal CWA for a wide variety of pollutants including arsenic, cadmium, lead, zinc, silver, oil, grease and excessive temperature. ASLF’s Notice prompted dialogue with PREPA to address the environmental degradation of these tropical bays, and included discussion of a potential settlement designed to mitigate environmental damage. Project proposals considered for funding by PREPA included the acquisition of delicate bay shore areas for management by local environmental organizations, an island wide energy conservation and education program, pollution prevention projects, and research on endangered species.

After months of negotiation leading into 1993, an agreement was finally reached between ASLF, PREPA and the Federal Department of Justice. The terms of the settlement included $425,000 given by PREPA to the Fundacion Puertorriquena de Conservacion (Conservation Foundation of Puerto Rico) to oversee the acquisition of sensitive watershed lands, and to fund scientific studies of the three bays impacted by PREPA discharges. Geared toward protecting valuable resources and restoring productivity, these studies were devised to augment existing studies conducted by the Puerto Rico Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Research funds were also distributed to the Water Environment Federation Research Foundation with the hope of improving the energy efficiency of waste water treatment facilities in Puerto Rico.

By 1995, The San Juan Bay Estuary Program (SJBEP), created with federal government funding under The National Estuary Program of the CWA, and ASLF were working closely to maximize the impact of available funds. The location of San Juan Bay in the midst of a heavily populated and industrialized urban core triggered concerns of bioconcentration of toxic substances discharged in the Bay into the flesh of fish, making the fish unsafe for human consumption. After approval of ASLF as a part of the PREPA consent decree, a preliminary study was conducted by ASLF and Servicios Cientifícos y Técnicos to gather data and conduct fish tissue sampling. Five species of fish and one species of crab feeding in the San Juan Bay Estuary System were studied, selected on the basis of their popularity for human consumption and due to their potential for bioaccumulation of contaminants, broad geographical distribution, and reliable taxonomic identification. Tissue samples were taken and analyzed for the presence of various target chemical analytes, including 19 aromatic hydrocarbons, 22 organochlorine pesticides and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and 11 inorganic elements.

The study was completed in 1997, and a draft presented for comments and review to the San Juan Bay Estuary Program’s Scientific and Technical Committee and U.S. EPA. Detailed results of the study were also made available to the public after these bodies had completed their review processes. While levels of several target analytes exceeded EPA recommendations, the study did not call for the institution of any fishing advisories or suggest any immediate health risks from the consumption of fish in the estuary system. However, the authors did note the level of contaminants exceeding EPA recommendations signified a need for a follow-up study to better determine what risks to the general population may exist.

Funding remained after the fish tissue sampling study, and in 1996, ASLF launched three additional projects created in accordance with the PREPA settlement – two in Jobos Bay, and one in San Juan Bay. In Jobos Bay, a Habitat Assessment was carried out by Dr. Jorge Garcia of Marine Consulting and an Underground Water Assessment was conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey with modeling done by Myrna Hall. In San Juan Bay, a geographic information systems project to assist with computer mapping of data collected in the bay was carried out under the auspices of the San Juan Bay Estuary Program and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

In 2007, PREPA committed to invest $10 million by 2008 to maintain compliance with the CWA. Following ASLF’s settlement, projects have included improvements to the used water treatment plants, the construction of oil separators, rain water retention ponds, liquid waste slime pools, thermometers to measure temperature of cooling water as it is discharged from condensators, and flow measurers screen wash system modifications.

It has now been more than 40 years since the CWA became law in 1972. Many regulations of the CWA were scheduled to be phased in, and have been amended or repealed since its creation due to scientific advancement and political will. The EPA’s recent press release marks another era in the enforcement of Section 316:

“The regulations apply to facilities that use cooling water intake structures to withdraw water from waters of the U.S. and have or require an NPDES permit. Applicability for a specific facility depends on the industrial sector and the facility size. Many industrial sectors are affected; the sectors with the largest number of regulated facilities are:

  • Electric generating plants
  • Pulp and paper mills
  • Chemical manufacturing plants
  • Iron and steel manufacturing
  • Petroleum refineries
  • Food processing
  • Aluminum manufacturing.

For precise definitions of coverage, see the regulations at 40 CFR 125.81, 125.91 and 125.131.

Final Rule for Existing Electric Generating Plants and Factories – 2014

This rule covers roughly 1,065 existing facilities that are designed to withdraw at least 2 million gallons per day of cooling water. EPA estimates that 521 of these facilities are factories, and the other 544 are power plants.

  • The facilities are required to choose one of seven options to reduce fish impingement.
  • Facilities that withdraw at least 125 million gallons per day must conduct studies to help their permitting authority determine whether and what site-specific controls, if any, would be required to reduce entrainment of aquatic organisms.
  • New units added to an existing facility are required to reduce both impingement and entrainment that achieves one of two alternatives under national entrainment standards.
  • EPA has concluded Endangered Species Act consultation with the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Laws in the United States are continuously under scrutiny, and the CWA is no exception. Riverkeeper is currently threating to sue the E.P.A. to issue stricter standards for industrial cooling and impose further changes to the CWA. More information on this current CWA challenge can be found at: Additional information about the CWA can also be found at:

Summer 2013 Newsletter

Sustainable Urban Spaces

Vet Farms and Refugee Agriculture

Mangrove-Coral Association Discovery

Save the Rain Vacant Lot Program

ASLF Commences Two Lawsuits

Phosphorus TMDL Approved

Greenburgh, NY & Green Infrastructure

ASLF Presentations and Publications

Environmental Communication

30th Birthday Reflections


Nelson Mandela Day

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Greetings!  Thursday, July 18 is International Nelson Mandela Day. Worldwide, individuals and organizations are taking time out to contribute 67 minutes as “service to one’s fellow human” as a way to honor the life and work of Nelson Mandela.  Why 67?  Mandela devoted 67 years of his life to social change.

From 11:30 AM until 12:37 PM on July 18, ASLF staff and other volunteers will be working in our urban vegetable garden.  These will include Syracuse Bhutanese refugees, with whom we have been working recently on establishing a community center on the North Side.  After the 67 minutes of service, we will have a light lunch.  We would love for you to attend our Mandela Day celebration, and participate in the service.  We are at 658 West Onondaga Street in Syracuse.  Simply let us know if you plan on attending.  Thank you.

For more information:

ASLF 30th Anniversary Party a Success!

ASLF’s headquarters was a scene of celebration and reflection as environmental activists, government leaders, and agency friends convened December 6 to mark our 30th anniversary as an environmental group.  We commemorated the accomplishments made since 1982 and showcased current projects that so essentially need the support of everyone who cares to make a difference.  These include: urban agriculture, urban forestry, green infrastructure, green jobs, water resource management, and environmental communication to undeserved groups.  Please feel free to make a donation towards any of the program areas listed above (just specify in an email or on your check).  Checks can be made payable to: Atlantic States Legal Foundation, and can be mailed to 658 W. Onondaga St. Syracuse, NY 13210.  You can also use the online credit card donation feature located here on our website.  Thank you and have a great New Year!

UN Conference: Rio + 20

Published: January 25, 2012

As recent inductees into the United Nations, ASLF has been invited to partake in the RIO + 20 conference on Sustainable Environment. For more information about this conference please go to . More news will come as ASLF decides on what role it partakes in the conference in the coming months.

Contact ASLF here.

Autumn 2011 Newsletter

A Cleaner Lake in Syracuse, Atlantic States Extends Its Overseas Presence, ASLF Expands and Broadens Staff, and more news.

Read Newsletter (PDF)

Contact ASLF here

ASLF Presents at 2011 Low Impact Development Symposium

The Low Impact Development Symposium of 2011 has accepted an abstract submitted by the Atlantic States Legal Foundation. The ASLF staff gave a presentation on September 27 at the Symposium in Philadelphia. With a theme of Greening the Urban Environment, this conference brings together three separate organizations: the 19th National Nonpoint Source Monitoring Workshop, the 5th National LID Conference and the 2011 Pennsylvania Stormwater Management Symposium, into a single venue to share information, exchange ideas, demonstrate technologies and discuss utilizing LID strategies to address changes to water quality and quantity in the urban environment.

The ASLF presentation shared with the community the experiences gained from the process that took Onondaga County from struggling to comply with the Amended Consent Judgment (ACJ) court order to being named by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as one of the nation’s top 10 leaders in using green infrastructure to reduce combined sewer overflows (CSOs). Challenges that any entity may have to deal with when pursuing green infrastructure in their community and the benefits of green infrastructure practices were also discussed in the presentation.

Mathew Millea, the Deputy County Executive, and Brian Marengo of CH2M Hill, also presented on the County’s Save the Rain program, which made Onondaga County one of the places most frequently referenced at the conference for its aggressive green infrastructure program.

Contact ASLF here.

Summer 2009 Newsletter

Brownfield Remediation in Syracuse, New Resort Risks Aquifer in Bahamas, Green Infrastructure on the Near Westside, and more news.

Read Newsletter (PDF)

Contact ASLF here.