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Post date: February 25 2000

State Wins Court Injunction Against Asphalt Company

Attorney General Spitzer and State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner John Cahill today announced they have won a court victory shutting down a Pittsford asphalt plant that repeatedly violated state clean air, clean water and oil spill laws.

In a 30-page decision released today, Monroe County Supreme Court Justice Evelyn Frazee found that Monoco Oil Company Inc.'s emissions of noxious odors over a 14-year period constituted a public nuisance, and ordered that the plant cease its asphalt operations.

"This is a major environmental victory for the citizens of Monroe County in general and for the residents of Pittsford in particular," said Attorney General Spitzer. "No longer will they have to stay indoors with their windows closed tight to avoid the noxious fumes emitted from that plant. This court decision will improve the quality of life for thousands of residents, particularly those who suffer from asthma and other respiratory illnesses and the many students and staff of a school next to this polluting facility."

Spitzer said this case serves as a reminder that the state expects its corporate citizens to comply with state environmental laws and respect the communities in which they do business.

DEC Commissioner Cahill said: "Under Governor Pataki's leadership, the State Department of Environmental Conservation is protecting New York's environment and natural resources by increasing environmental compliance, reducing pollution and cleaning up contamination. DEC will continue to work in cooperation with Attorney General Spitzer to protect the state's natural resources and hold polluters accountable, preserving the quality of life in communities like Pittsford across New York state."

Spitzer filed the lawsuit in September 1999.

The Monoco plant, located adjacent to Pittsford Sutherland High School and residential neighborhoods, has been the subject of nearly 2,000 citizen complaints since 1994, the year an odor hotline was established by the Town of Pittsford. Despite repeated efforts by the DEC and Town officials to get the company to control its plant odors, Monoco's operations continued to be a constant source of citizen complaints.

In March 1999, an oil spill at the plant resulted in pollution of the Erie Canal, which runs beside the plant. The company failed to report the spill to state authorities, as required by law, and failed to contain the spill after it occurred. Criminal charges against the company arising from the oil spill are still pending.

The injunction prohibits Monoco from accepting, receiving or storing any additional asphalt products at the plant, effectively shutting it down. After consulting with lawyers, Judge Frazee will address the removal of all asphalt currently at the site.

In her decision, Judge Frazee found that "Monoco has consistently failed to properly operate and maintain the odor control system at the plant." Additionally, the judge found that Monoco has "had 14 years of failed attempts to address the situation. Their efforts in this period cannot be characterized as being in good faith."

Pittsford Town Supervisor William Carpenter said: "We are very pleased with the outcome of the decision. We would like to express our sincere thanks to Attorney General Spitzer and his staff for bringing this case to such a successful result."

Attorney General Spitzer and Commissioner Cahill acknowledged the important work done by the Residents Committee for Clean Air; Pittsford Town Supervisor William Carpenter; and Pittsford Mayor Robert Corby. The Town of Pittsford intervened in the case. Spitzer also recognized the years of work on the case by the staff of DEC's Region 8 based in Avon, Livingston County.

The Monoco case was developed by staff at the Department of Environmental Conservation and referred to the Attorney General for prosecution.

The case was handled by Assistant Attorneys General Christopher Amato, Michael Myers, and Jared Snyder, and Chief Scientist Peter Skinner.

DEC staff who worked on the case include Paul D'Amato, Thomas Marriott, Bruce Finster, Mike Zamiarski, Yuan Zeng, and Dave Kiser.