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Bills re-introduced to stop incinerators from being built in the Finger Lakes

Lawmakers are working on stopping a proposed incinerator from being constructed, or even moved through the Article 10 process in New York State.

Senators Rachel May (D) and Pamela Helming (R) and Assemblymember Michael Cusick (D), with strong support from Assemblymembers Phil Palmesano (R) and Brian Kolb (R), introduced bills in the state Senate and Assembly that would stop developers from building garbage incinerators in the Finger Lakes. The legislation, S2270 and A5029, would prohibit construction of trash incinerators in the Finger Lakes Watershed, squashing Circular enerG’s proposal to build one of the state’s largest waste incinerators at the former Seneca Army Depot.

Thirty-five groups and elected officials, representing Finger Lakes businesses and wineries -including David Kaiser, Supervisor of the Town of Romulus and Seneca Lake Guardian- which has spearheaded the effort to stop the incinerator, applauded the bill introduction as an important way to protect the Finger Lakes economy. Barring swift passage of this bill, the Finger Lakes region faces a lengthy, costly Article 10 process that removes local control of decision-making over the project.

“We urge Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins to do everything in their power to pass this bill quickly, and for Governor Cuomo to sign it into law. The Finger Lakes deserves immediate protection from any corporation looking to exploit its land and natural resources. This toxic incinerator could have devasting effects to our region’s economy, public health and quality of life and we urge Albany to act immediately to get this bill passed,” said Yvonne Taylor, Vice President of Seneca Lake Guardian.

The proposed incinerator, submitted by developer Circular enerG, LLC, would require the transportation of thousands of tons of additional trash from around the state daily by truck and/or rail for burning. The Finger Lakes is already home to three large landfills that accept waste from a large geographic area: Seneca Meadows, Ontario County Landfill and High Acres. This facility would not reduce the amount of waste entering those landfills and it is likely that the incinerator would accept waste from a large geographic area, not just the state of New York.

The facility would be constructed squarely between Seneca and Cayuga Lakes, 3,200 feet from a K-12 school and near a residential facility for at risk youth. The Seneca Army Depot is also home to nesting bald eagles and the largest white deer population in the world.

If built, the facility would include a 260-foot smoke stack that could be seen for miles, producing toxic emissions and residual ash that contain dioxins, lead, mercury, and other toxic chemicals that are harmful to the health of humans, plants and animals and would have an impact on the region’s flourishing wine and tourism industry. The smoke stack would also emit 1 Million tons of CO2 every year, further adding to the global climate crisis and flying in the face of Governor Cuomo’s Green New Deal.

The town of Romulus, elected officials, residents and advocates have openly opposed the proposal due to community health, environment, and economic concerns. They emphasized, contrary to statements from Circular enerG representatives, that the incinerator is not a good economic deal for the area. Trash incinerators are the costliest way to generate energy and the few jobs created will put a $2.8 billion wine and tourism industry that supports nearly 60,000 jobs at risk. Real estate values and entrepreneurial investments have already stalled at the specter of construction of this facility in the heart of the Finger Lakes and Cirular enerG has filed two Article 78 suits against the Town of Romulus, burdening the small rural town with costly and lengthy proceedings.

“Trash incinerators have no place in the Fingers Lakes. Circular enerG attempted to deceive our community into believing this was a renewable energy project and steamroll their proposal through despite widespread opposition. We are grateful to Senators May and Helming and Assembly Members Cusick, Palmesano, Kolb, Woerner, Lupardo, Thiele, Glick and Finch for recognizing the need to protect our growing region and are hopeful the legislature will pass this bill to secure a future in the Finger Lakes that is a free of predatory companies like Circular enerG,” said Joseph Campbell, President of Seneca Lake Guardian.

“The Fingers Lakes is home to a flourishing wine and tourism industry, renowned for its pristine landscapes and bucolic scenery. This trash incinerator puts the years of work our community has made to develop these industries in jeopardy. We look forward to working with legislators to ensure this legislation gets passed swiftly and keep incinerators away from our community,” said Will Ouweleen, Secretary of the Finger Lakes Wine Business Coalition (FLXWBC).

The bill was unanimously passed in the Senate last year, but failed to come to the Assembly floor at the end of the Legislative session. This year, Assemblymembers Barbara Lifton, Phil Palmesano, Brian Kolb, Carrier Woerner, Donna Lupardo, Fred Thiele, Deborah Glick and Gary Finch are co-sponsoring the bill.