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Judge rejects federal bid to dismiss suit to block sale of Plum Island

Plum Island is seen on September 17, 2011.

Plum Island is seen on September 17, 2011. Credit: Kevin P. Coughlin / Kevin P. Coughlin

A federal district court judge ruled Friday that a lawsuit brought by pro-environmental groups over the federal government’s handling of the potential sale of Plum Island could go forward.

Judge Denis Hurley, of the Eastern District of New York in Central Islip, rejected a motion from both the Department of Homeland Security and the General Services Administration to dismiss the lawsuit filed against them in July 2016 by Save the Sound, a New Haven, Connecticut-based environmental nonprofit group, and other environmental advocates regarding the planned sale of Plum Island.

The lawsuit alleges the agencies violated provisions of several federal laws — including the National Environmental Protection Act, Endangered Species Act and Coastal Zone Management Act — in their effort to auction the federally-owned island to the highest bidder. The suit seeks the cancellation of the sale.

Bob DeLuca, president of Group for the East End, one of the plaintiffs in the case, called the ruling “an early and important victory for everyone who believes Plum Island is a critical part of our nation’s natural heritage that should not be auctioned off like a piece of meat to the highest bidder.”

Southold officials also were happy with the decision.

“It is great news,” said Town Supervisor Scott Russell. “That organization [Save the Sound] has been a champion in the fight to protect Plum Island. This allows them to take that fight to court. Well done.”

Pamela A. Dixon, press secretary for the General Services Administration, said in a brief statement Friday that the agency does not comment on pending litigation.

Homeland Security officials did not return requests for comment Friday.

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