The state Department of Environmental Conservation levied a $2,500 fine against a Cobleskill-based mining company for a dust cloud that followed a blast at its Schoharie mine in 2010.
Cobleskill Stone Products paid $500 and the DEC suspended $2,000 of the fine pending an independent review of the blasting practices, according to a consent order dated May 13.
Cobleskill Stone owner Emil Galasso likened the puff of dust that followed the Aug. 31, 2010, blast to what happens when a farmer applies lime to fields.
Mining companies have to follow guidelines in a “fugitive dust” plan and the DEC contends Cobleskill Stone’s contractor didn’t remove enough material from the site of the blast to prevent dust from traveling outside the mine’s boundary.
Galasso suspects the DEC’s investigation was sparked by complaints prompted by Save Our Schoharie, a citizen group that’s been fighting Cobleskill Stone’s plans to expand the Schoharie mine.
The company has been battling the town of Schoharie in state Supreme Court over a proposal to expand the mine, which Schoharie contends is contrary to its land-use laws.
Town Supervisor Gene Milone said despite the cost of legal action, the town can’t simply ignore what officials see as a potential land-use violation.
The costly fight has irked some residents, Milone said.
The town spent just over $194,000 in legal fees since 2005 on the case and another $81,470.86 in 2012.
“People are upset this kind of money has to be spent on this lawsuit. We have no choice but to defend the regulations,” Milone said.
“These land-use laws that we have in place were put together by prior represented, voted on by the general public to put in place. We’re duty bound to uphold them,” Milone said.
Both sides are waiting for a possible summary judgment decision pending before Supreme Court Justice Eugene P. Devine.