A victory for Lake George and the environment.
A victory for scientific review.
A victory for the public’s right not to be subject to potentially harmful government approvals without first having the opportunity to fully present their side.
State Supreme Court Justice Robert J. Muller’s decision Monday to grant a preliminary injunction against the use of a chemical herbicide to control Eurasian milfoil in two bays in Lake George provides all those wins.
The injunction – which was sought by the Lake George Association, Waterkeeper and other individuals – means the proposed chemical application of the herbicide ProcellaCOR will get the thorough public review it should have gotten before the Adirondack Park Agency rushed through its approval earlier this year.
That APA review was concluded without fully considering all the evidence about the potential impacts on the lake presented by scientists, water quality experts and the general public.
In his decision to grant the preliminary injunction, which will likely prevent the chemical from being applied in the lake this year, the judge noted several problems with the APA review that the opponents might be able to prove.
They include the contention that APA board members did not get to see many of the comments opposing the use of the chemical (in part because some were sent to spam folders), that there were good arguments to make that the proceedings were rushed and lacking in comparative analysis, that the APA didn’t fully explore potential alternatives to the application, such as hand-harvesting of the milfoil in the two bays.
If in the end, the testimony supports the application of the chemical, then at least no one will be able to complain that they weren’t given an opportunity to be heard.
There is more than one lesson to be drawn from the outcome of this case so far.
One is that agencies shouldn’t rush to approve a chemical of such limited research that could potentially do damage to the environment without fully considering all the comments, pro and con. Another is that they should look at whether all potential alternatives had been exhausted and whether alternatives that had been dismissed as ineffective years earlier could be used today.
Finally, it’s that agencies shouldn’t rush to a predetermined conclusion for any such treatment without ensuring that organizations, local government officials and members of the public had a chance to present a full array scientific and technical evidence.
So Lake George will be spared a potentially harmful application of a chemical, at least until its use can be thoroughly explored as effective and safe.
And state review agencies are now hereby on notice that the courts won’t stand for them ramming a proposal like this down the people’s throats.