Litigation

Gilberti Stinziano Heintz & Smith PC has redefined the scope of authority of federal and state environmental regulatory agencies to regulate commerce and industry. We’ve successfully challenged government regulation and other imposed restrictions through litigation in state and federal courts and in administrative forums.

Our Litigation and Appellate practice group, in concert with our Environmental & Land Use group, has directed landmark cases that have helped define the scope of state environmental review and the limits of state and municipal authority.

Land Use Rights – GSH&S was at the forefront of cases that established land use rights and the scope of environmental review for the mining industry. Our work in the landmark case of Atlantic Cement v. Williams defined the SEQRA-exempt status of grandfathered activity. Syracuse Aggregates v. Weise established mining as unique land use where the corpus of the land was integral rather than incidental to the establishment, and continuation of that land use criteria for determining whether a mining operation had vested its non-conforming use rights. It also established that the non-conforming, pre-existing use of a property for excavation of sand and gravel extended to the entire mineral reserve on the property.

In some of our more recent appellate work, Buffalo Crushed Stone and Glacial Aggregates, the Court of Appeals reversed the Appellate Division and set forth an expansive view of the protections that long-standing industrial operations are to be afforded against reactionary prohibitory laws and ordinances.

DERA – GSH&S spearheaded multiple litigations that successfully challenged regulations proposed by NYSDEC. The agency exceeded its authority by attempting to impose the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act’s retrofit requirements on a larger class of private vehicles than the Legislature intended. The court held that, based on the language of DERA, the Legislature intended the retrofit requirement to apply only to a limited class of prime contractors who contract with the State.

Brownfields – GSH&S brought a challenge in the New York State Supreme and Appellate Courts to NYSDEC’s denial of a developer’s application for inclusion in the State’s Brownfields Tax Credit Program. As a result, NYSDEC was required to accept a 150± acre parcel of land into the Brownfield Cleanup Program with an estimated worth to the client of more than $500 million.

Energy – GSH&S brought suit on behalf of a coalition of 8 NY counties and 5 public interest groups against FERC, successfully challenging FERC’s over-broad interpretation of a newly enacted federal law. As a result of the Firm’s strategy and effort, in one of the first decisions regarding the Energy Policy Act of 2005:

  • the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit rejected FERC’s interpretation of the statute and remanded a portion of FERC’s new electric transmission licensing rules;
  • the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit vacated and remanded to USDOE its determination to create a 190-mile overhead high-power electric transmission line;
  • the well-funded project sponsor, after spending millions of dollars on a New York State transmission line certification proceeding with more than 150 active parties, withdrew its application, prompting the Public Service Commission to dismiss the proceeding with prejudice.

We practice in the following courts and administrative forums:

  • New York State Supreme and Appellate Courts
  • Federal District Courts and Circuit Courts of Appeal
  • Issues Conferences and Adjudicatory Hearings before NYSDEC
  • Municipal Boards, Planning boards and Zoning Boards of Appeal
  • US Environmental Protection Agency
  • US Army Corps of Engineers
  • MSHA/OSHA
  • Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
  • New York State Public Service Commission

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