NEW YORK - A New York Supreme Court judge recently blocked a Department of Environmental Conservation mandate requiring the owners of heavy-duty diesel vehicles to retrofit their fleets with costly new equipment.

The plaintiffs said the agency mistakenly applied a law intended address state-owned vehicles to private owners. Justice Donald A. Greenwood agreed in a decision released on Dec. 15 in Riccelli Enterprises Inc. v. Department of Environmental Conservation.

"This is a landmark decision," said Kendra Adams, Executive Director of the New York State Motor Truck Association. "From the beginning, we felt that the regulations extended much further than the original intent behind the legislation. NYSDEC really took broad strokes in their interpretation of the new legislation."

When the Legislature passed the underlying legislation in 2006, it intended to require new emission control systems for state-owned trucks because federal money was available to pay for the retrofit. Private industry did not have federal money to pay for such retrofits. NYSDEC expanded the legislative intent of the law to include private-sector heavy duty trucks.

If NYSDEC remained unchallenged, experts estimated that it would have cost billions of dollars to the state economy. Almost every product on store shelves as well as industrial and construction products and their byproducts are delivered by trucks. A fragile economy was spared what could have been devastating blow.

In its decision, the court said the Legislature did not grant DEC the authority to require diesel retrofits to vehicles that were not owned, leased or operated by the state or a limited number of private companies that contract with the state.

The challenge was led by one of New York's leading environmental law firms: Gilberti, Stinziano, Heintz and Smith.

"A significant victory for industry and commerce was handed down," said William J. Gilberti, the lead counsel for Riccelli. "These unlawful regulations would have cost billions of dollars to an already damaged economy. A number of major businesses would have been out of business and thousands of employees and ultimate consumers would have suffered."

Adams concluded: "We congratulate Gilberti and we thank Riccelli for taking such a bold step. This case sets a new standard for NYSDEC going forward."