OMYA SUES VERMONT ON LIMITS
Friday, June 25, 1999
Company Continues Fight For Expanded Truck Traffic
By Bruce Edwards
OMYA Inc. has filed a federal lawsuit against the
State of Vermont for claiming its constitutional
rights were violated when the state limited the
company's ability to increase the number of trucks
hauling marble ore from its Middlebury quarry.
OMYA alleges in its lawsuit filed Wednesday in
U.S. District Court in Burlington that the state
Environmental Board violated the "supremacy clause,
the commerce clause, the equal protection clause, and
the due process clause, of the U.S. Constitution.
John Hasen, the Environmental Board's generally
counsel, declined comment Thursday, saying he had not
yet received a copy of the complaint.
The board last month denied OMYA's appeal of an
Act 250 permit that limited the number of trucks
hauling marble south along Route 7 from its Middlebury
quarry to its calcium carbonate plant in the Florence
section of Pittsford to 115 roundtrips a day. The
company had sought to double the number of roundtrips
from the current 85 trips a day to 170.
In its ruling, however, the board found that
doubling the number of OMYA trucks through Brandon
would "unduly exacerbate the current situation by
tipping the delicate balance in Brandon to favor use
of U.S. Route 7 at the expense of the historic and
aesthetic character of Brandon village."
In its 12-page complaint, OMYA made the following
arguments that in limiting the company's use of Route
7, the Environmental Board had violated the company's
rights under the U.S. Constitution:
Supremacy clause - Federal law and not state law
takes precedence over transportation issues in respect
to motor carriers.
Commerce clause - Restricting OMYA's use of Route
7 interferes with its ability to conduct interstate
commerce by restricting the amount of calcium
carbonate that it can process and sell to its
customers in the U.S. and Canada. The company also
argued that limiting its truck trips to 115 per day
"constitutes a direct restriction upon OMYA's right to
use a portion of the federal highway system in the
conduct of, and in a manner affecting, interstate
Equal protection clause - The company noted that
no other tractor-trailer trucks on Route 7 are
restricted in the same manner by the state.
Due process clause - Restricting its use of a
public highway "infringes upon OMYA's right to use
public facilities, engage in commerce, and pursue its
business and occupation ... ."
OMYA's attorneys also argued that highway
improvements are the state's responsibility. They
said while the state has been aware of the problems
identified in the board's decision, the state has
"taken no action to alleviate the problems ... ."
OMYA's battle to expand its calcium carbonate
operations in Vermont began two years ago when it
applied for an Act 250 permit to expand its Middlebury
quarry. The expansion included an increase in the
number of truck trips from 85 to 170 a day.
In November 1997, the company received a permit
to build a direct access road to Route 7 in
Middlebury. But in a separate decision on July 8,
1998, the District 9 Environmental Commission limited
the increase in truck traffic to 113 roundtrips per
day - well short of the number the company had sought
in order to meet increased customer demand.
In its decision, the commission noted that any
further increase in OMYA trucks along Route 7 through
Brandon would have an adverse impact on the downtown.
The company appealed the decision to the Environmental
Board, which issued its ruling last month. The board
granted OMYA 115 trips per day - only two more trips
than allowed under the original permit.
In a companion case, OMYA's plans to expand its
Florence plant are also on hold. Brandon innkeepers,
who have been at the forefront of opposing an increase
in OMYA trucks, are also opposing the plant expansion.
An Act 250 permit that granted a
10,000-square-foot addition to the plant was appealed
late last year by the innkeepers. That appeal is
still pending before the Environmental Board.
The innkeepers have argued that an increase in
trucks hauling OMYA's marble ore along Route 7 would
further damage their business. They claim the trucks
cause undue air pollution, unreasonable traffic
congestion, unsafe highway conditions and have an
adverse impact on the town's historic buildings and
Frustrated in its efforts to expand its business,
OMYA threatened to pull the plug on a four-year $160
million investment in its Vermont operation unless the
necessary permits were received by August of last
The company, which employs 200 people, is
considered by state and local officials to be an
important component of the local economy.
When the Environmental Board ruling went against
the company last month, Governor Howard B. Dean said
he was "very, very disappointed."