A proposed waste-to-energy incinerator for Romulus, Seneca County, suffered a major blow Wednesday when the NY Senate unanimously approved legislation banning such incinerators in the Finger Lakes, following a similar Assembly vote last week.
The Finger Lakes Community Preservation Act now goes to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo for signing. He has spoken against this project in the past.
Legislation co-sponsor Sen. Pamela Helming, R-Canandaigua, said, “The fact that this legislation passed unanimously in both the Senate and the Assembly—with support from Republicans, Democrats, and legislators of a variety of interests and backgrounds—is a clear sign that garbage incinerators are not welcome in the Finger Lakes region. A garbage incinerator would devastate the surrounding communities and negatively impact our health and our environment.”
The project was proposed by Circular EnerG with the idea that it would create energy to support redevelopment of the former Seneca Army Depot, where the project would be sited, and for the surrounding area. The trash would come from a wide area, including New York City, just as trash going to nearby landfills in Waterloo and Geneva now does.
“The bill is a real step back for the environment,” said attorney Alan J. Knauf, who is representing the developer, and it would eliminate “the only feasible necessary upgrade to the power supply” for the depot.
“It would just encourage landfilling, which is the worst option for waste disposal.” Burning waste instead of fossil fuels conserves resources, results in little air pollution and reduces greenhouse gas emissions, he said.
Other waste disposal method can be more harmful to the environment, Knauf said.
“Landfilling causes far greater greenhouse gas emissions from methane, terrible odors, and dioxin emissions from uncontrolled burning of plastics. Recycling is a sham today, with plastics we thought were being recycled ending up in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.”
The company will continue to pursue the project, he said.
Opponents to the project issued statements urging Cuomo to sign the bill into law immediately, while repeating their assertions that the plant would be environmentally and economically detrimental to the area.
“The incinerator is not wanted in our town, and the impacts of such a facility would be devastating to the health of our residents and to our thriving agri-tourism based economy,” said David Kaiser, Town Supervisor of Romulus. He said investments and real estate sales have stalled in the area while the fate of the incinerator is being debated.
Helming said, “The fact that this legislation passed both houses of the State Legislature and now awaits Governor Cuomo’s signature is a moment of celebration for the entire Finger Lakes region and all those who believe in clean water, clean air, and a high quality of life for our children and families. The Governor has indicated that he opposes a garbage incinerator in the Finger Lakes region, and I look forward to him signing this into law.”
“The Finger Lakes has been Wine Country for over 150 years and is responsible today for over 75% of all the wine produced in New York,” added Mark Venuti, Town Supervisor of Geneva. “The Governor has recognized the region’s immense contribution and potential, and he joined us last year with his own statement opposing this misplaced project. I’m confident he will stand with us again and sign this bill into law.”
More than 500 businesses, environmental groups and organizations had opposed the project, according to the Seneca Lake Guardian organization. Joseph Campbell, President of Seneca Lake Guardian, said. “A broad coalition of environmental groups, businesses and local and regional governments support this bill because the proposed incinerator would harm the environment and threaten the growing winery and tourism industries.”
According to Helming, the legislation would prohibit a trash incinerator if it:
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