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Legal battle brews over whether Micron plans should affect 81 project timeline

Lawyers present arguments over whether Micron's plans should be considered before the I-81 project moves forward.
Jessica Cain
Lawyers present arguments to Judge Gerard Neri over whether Micron's plans should be considered before the I-81 project moves forward.

The legal battle over the multi-billion dollar Interstate 81 project is now including Micron in the mix.

Both sides in the case say they’re not against Micron’s plan to build a massive semiconductor facility in Clay, but they disagree on whether it should delay the start of the proposed 81 reconstruction.

State Supreme Court Justice Gerard Neri issued a temporary stop to construction in response to a lawsuit filed by the group “Renew 81 for All” last month. He later modified that to say the state could work on paperwork related to the project, but it could not begin physical construction.

Now, Renew 81 wants the state to conduct a supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) in light of Micron’s plans.

Speaking on behalf of the New York State Department of Transportation, Meredith Lee-Clark, an assistant attorney general, told the judge the details of the Micron project are still speculative.

"There's no way that the department could conduct a meaningful supplement to the EIS based on what's available right now," said Lee- Clark.

Lee-Clark said while it’s still possible there will be an SEIS related to Micron in the future, the state doesn’t believe it should delay the project.

But Charles Garland, an Onondaga County Legislator and member of Renew 81, said the review should be done right now.

"It's all about making sure that number one, this environmental testing is done,” said Garland. “The other thing is making sure that people that are supposed to be able to work at Micron have access."

He said he’s concerned about the effect the influx of people related to Micron will have on the proposed Interstate 81 reconstruction.

“We know with this Micron project, they’re talking about an additional 150,000 people moving in. They’re talking about 50,000 jobs, even more.”

Judge Neri said he plans to review arguments from both sides and announce a decision on the motion when the case is back in court on Jan. 12.

Jessica Cain is a freelance reporter for WRVO, covering issues around central New York. Most recently, Jessica was a package producer at Fox News in New York City, where she worked on major news events, including the 2016 presidential conventions and election. Prior to that, she worked as a reporter and anchor for multiple media outlets in central and northern New York. A Camillus native, Jessica enjoys exploring the outdoors with her daughters, going to the theater, playing the piano, and reading.