BINGHAMTON, N.Y. (October 14, 2009) - Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that he has obtained a court judgment requiring the operator of a bluestone mine in Chenango County and his associates to pay $400,000 in civil penalties for illegal mining and refusing to remedy environmental abuses.

The court-ordered penalty obtained by Cuomo in this case is the largest ever obtained for violations of New York’s bluestone mining laws.

“Today's defendants took advantage of this State's natural resources to line their own pockets," said Attorney General Cuomo. “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.”

The judgment, issued by Justice Kevin M. Dowd in Chenango County Supreme Court, requires John D. Lepre of Kingsley, Pennsylvania to pay $400,000 in penalties for mining bluestone without a state-required permit at a site in the Town of Afton. The judgment requires Lepre, the company through which he allegedly sold the bluestone, Pennsylvania-based Stoney Lonesome Quarries, and its owner, Julie Lepre, to either obtain a state mining permit for the site or to fully reclaim the site pursuant to a state-approved plan. Finally, Lepre, Stoney Lonesome Quarries, and Julie Lepre were ordered to post a bond to ensure that the site will be properly restored.

Bluestone mining produces stone popular for a variety of uses in construction including stair steps, fixtures, countertops, tabletops, as well as flagstone for sidewalks, walkways and patios. However, it requires extensive excavation using heavy equipment, and if unregulated, can pollute water and air resources and leave an open pit and badly scarred land.

Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Pete Grannis said: “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. DEC staff uncovered this problem and appreciates the Attorney General's action to hold parties responsible for their actions.”

In 2006, Lepre was discovered by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to be operating an un-permitted bluestone mine in violation of New York’s Mined Land Reclamation Law at the Afton site. While he subsequently agreed to a DEC administrative consent order to stop the practice, Lepre continued mining operations at the site. Working with DEC, Attorney General Cuomo then filed a lawsuit against Lepre and associates in January 2009 and subsequently obtained a court order that immediately shut down the illegal mine until the required state permit was obtained.

The case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Joseph Koczaja under the supervision of Deputy Bureau Chief Lisa Burianek and Special Deputy Attorney General Katherine Kennedy. The DEC’s Syracuse Regional Office is assisting with the case.