Cuomo obtains court order to shut down Afton bluestone mine

AFTON - Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the filing of a lawsuit against the operator of an illegal bluestone mine in Chenango County and his associates for refusing to remedy environmental abuses that have laid waste to up to eight acres of forest land.

Attorney General Cuomo’s lawsuit charges the mine operator, John D. Lepre, of Kingsley, Penn., with unlawfully mining bluestone without a required permit and without any intention to restore the site once mining is completed. The suit further charges the company through which Lepre allegedly sold the bluestone, Pennsylvania-based Stoney Lonesome Quarries, and its owner, Julie Lepre, also of Kingsley, with supporting the illegal mining activity. The Attorney General’s Office also obtained a court order against John D. Lepre prohibiting him from any further bluestone mining at the Town of Afton site unless the required state permit is obtained.

“New York state mining laws exist to protect our air, water and neighboring citizens, and to ensure that mining companies restore the land when their operations end,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “New York’s mines must operate in a safe and responsible manner. Our state will not tolerate businesses that choose to flagrantly break the law and put the environment at risk.”

Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Pete Grannis said, “Bluestone mining is a niche industry that has flourished under New York's stable regulatory framework. But blatant abuse of the law cannot be tolerated -- DEC is committed to pursuing violators. Only by holding mining operations accountable can we protect the environment and the businesses that play by the rules.”

Mining of bluestone requires extensive excavation using heavy equipment. If left unregulated, the mining can pollute the water and air, and leave an open pit and badly scarred land.

Lepre was discovered by the DEC to be running an un-permitted mine in violation of New York’s Mined Land Reclamation Law at the Chenango County site in 2005. He subsequently agreed to a court settlement in 2006 to end mining at the site until a state mining permit was obtained or the site was restored. Lepre has refused to submit a plan or provide financial security to prove that the site will be properly restored once mining is completed. Meanwhile, mining at the site continued in violation of the 2006 settlement and state law.

The lawsuit seeks to require Lepre to restore all mined areas, and to post a financial bond. John Lepre faces an $8,000 penalty for violating the 2006 settlement. In addition, both John and Julie Lepre and Stoney Lonesome Quarries face significant penalties of up to $5,000 for each additional violation, and additional penalties of up to $1,000 per day that the violations continued.

The case is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Joseph Koczaja, under the supervision of Deputy Bureau Chief Lisa Burianek and Special Deputy Attorney General Katherine Kennedy. The DEC’s Syracuse Regional Office is assisting with the case.

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