Lehigh Portland Cement Co. v. New York State Dept. Of Environmental Conservation – Case Brief Summary (New York)

In Lehigh Portland Cement Co. v. New York State Dept. Of Environmental Conservation (87 NY2d 136, 661 N.E.2d 961, 638 N.Y.S.2d 388 [1995]), the plaintiff submitted petitions to an agency for permission to use waste materials instead of raw materials in its cement manufacturing process.

The plaintiff invoked the provisions of the Uniform Procedures Act, "which authorizes a procedure to induce prompt administrative determinations of permit applications." (Lehigh Portland Cement Co., 87 NY2d at 143-144.)

However, the agency took the long-standing position that the Uniform Procedures Act did not apply to the Lehigh plaintiff's petitions. When the plaintiff brought a declaratory judgment action against the agency, the agency argued that the case should be dismissed because the plaintiff did not seek an administrative ruling as to the applicability of the Uniform Procedures Act to plaintiff's petitions.

The Court of Appeals ruled that the pursuit of administrative remedies would have been futile, because of the agency's clear and unequivocal statement regarding its long-established position that it was not governed by certain statutory timeframes, which affected the status of plaintiff's claims.

The Court noted that the agency's definitive position left the plaintiff "in the dark as to when it could expect" its application to be processed (id. at 141).