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NRDC Urges Sullivan Country Lawmakers to Postpone Key Vote Later This Week

NEW YORK (February 1, 2005) -- Controversial plans to install five casinos in the Catskills' Sullivan County must clear another important legal safeguard, according to NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). Before county lawmakers can let developers to proceed, state law requires thorough assessment of the cumulative environmental, social and economic effects of all five gaming halls, attorneys for the New York-based conservation group say.

The Sullivan County legislature is currently scheduled to vote Thursday on a resolution supporting the five-casino plan first announced by Gov. George Pataki in December. Lawmakers in Albany and Washington are watching the bellwether local measure closely.

"Concentrating five major casinos in such a small area will fundamentally alter the landscape of these communities. It means more traffic, more air and water pollution, and major changes in the historically rural character of this region," said NRDC attorney Mark Izeman. "That's precisely why the law requires officials to look at the effects of all five gaming facilities together."

NRDC notified Sullivan County lawmakers about the requirements set out in the 30-year-old State Environmental Quality Review Act in a letter delivered yesterday, pointing out that the law applies to all new facilities associated with the casinos including roads, parking and other development.

The group urged Sullivan County legislators to wait for findings of the assessment before voting one way or the other on the five-casino proposal.

"It would be irresponsible to rush in without knowing the full cost to these towns and their taxpayers, or the combined impact on the local environment. The law says 'Look before you leap.' We think that's a very good policy. It doesn't make sense to vote on this proposal until we have the whole picture."

The letter was prepared by Whiteman, Osterman & Hanna LLP, an Albany law firm representing NRDC. Contact Jon Coifman at NRDC, 212 727-4535 or jcoifman@nrdc.org, for a copy.

The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, nonprofit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has more than 1 million members and e-activists nationwide, served from offices in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

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