Operator of illegal N.Y. mine hit with $400,000 in fines‏

By Nick Rees | Oct 14, 2009

Andrew Cuomo (D)

BINGHAMTON, N.Y. (Legal Newsline) - The operator of a bluestone mine in New York's Chenango County and his associates will pay $400,000 in civil penalties for illegal mining and refusing to remedy environmental abuses following a court judgment obtained against them.

John Lepre of Kingsley, Pa., is required to pay the $400,000 under the judgment, issued by Justice Kevin M. Dowd in Chenango County Supreme Court, for mining bluestone without first obtaining a state-required permit.

Lepre and Pennsylvania-based Stoney Lonesome Quarries, the company through which Lepre allegedly sold the bluestone, and that company's owner, Julie Lepre, are required by the judgment to obtain a state mining permit for the site or fully reclaim the site pursuant to a state-approved plan.

The defendants have also been ordered to post a bond ensuring that the site will be restored to its proper state.

"Today's defendants took advantage of this State's natural resources to line their own pockets," Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said. "They mined illegally and irresponsibly - laying to waste eight acres of forestland. This judgment is the largest fine ever obtained in New York State for violations of bluestone mining laws and should serve as a warning to other operators who disregard the law and jeopardize the health of our land and our communities."

Bluestone mining produces a stone that is popular for a variety of construction uses, including stair steps, countertops, tabletops, fixtures, and flagstones for sidewalks, walkways and patios.

The mining of bluestone, however, requires extensive excavation with heavy equipment. If the mining is done without regulation, it can lead to water and air resources becoming polluted and leave an open pit and badly scarred land.

"The enforcement of bluestone mining laws not only protects the environment but also creates a level playing field by the numerous companies that play by the rules," Pete Grannis, Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner, said. "DEC staff uncovered this problem and appreciates the Attorney General's action to hold parties responsible for their actions."

Lepre was previously discovered by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to be operating an un-permitted bluestone mine in 2006 at the same site. Despite agreeing to a DEC administrative consent to stop his mining, Lepre continued. The mine was shut down in January 2009 by a lawsuit filed by Cuomo.

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