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Legislation to ban incinerator from Finger Lakes passes Senate, awaits Governor Cuomo’s signature

A week after the New York State Assembly unanimously passed legislation to stop incinerators in the Finger Lakes, the Senate also passed the legislation. The bill heads to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s desk for a signature.

Last year, Governor Cuomo said that a proposed Finger Lakes “incinerator project is not consistent with my administration’s goals for protecting our public health, our environment, and our thriving agriculture-based economy in the Finger Lakes.” The dozens of local businesses and groups supporting the legislation are hopeful that the Governor will make good on his opposition to the proposed incinerator and sign the legislation, which would prohibit construction of trash incinerators in the Finger Lakes Watershed.

The legislation, S2270 in the Senate and A5029 in the Assembly, would squash Circular enerG’s proposal to build one of the state’s largest waste incinerators at the former Seneca Army Depot in Romulus, New York – in the heart of Finger Lakes Wine Country.

The town of Romulus, elected officials, residents and advocates applauded the legislature for passing the bill and have opposed the trash incinerator proposal due to concerns about its impact on community health, the environment, and the local economy. They emphasized that the incinerator is not a good economic deal for the area.

The incinerator as proposed by Circular enerG, Inc. based out of Rochester, New York.

“The Legislature has come together in a bi-partisan fashion to protect the Finger Lakes from this toxic incinerator,” said Joseph Campbell, President of Seneca Lake Guardian. “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. Senators Rachel May and Pam Helming and Assembly Members Cusick, Kolb, Lifton and Palmesano have shown themselves to be tremendous advocates on this issue. We urge Governor Cuomo to sign this bill so we can put this outrageous proposal behind us and go back to growing the Finger Lakes economy.”

Trash incinerators are the most expensive and the dirtiest 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 new 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 lawsuits against the Town of Romulus, burdening the small rural town with costly and lengthy legal proceedings.

“Romulus is beautifully situated at the heart of the Finger Lakes between Seneca and Cayuga lakes. We are predominately agricultural and tourism-centered, and the specter of installing the state’s largest trash burning project in our town has already hurt us from an economic stance, as real estate sales and investments stall”, said David Kaiser, Supervisor of the Town of Romulus. “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.”

“We urge the Governor to stand by his words and truly protect the Finger Lakes region from dangerous incinerators that impact the state’s investment in the region, our quality of life and our thriving economy. As the recipient of the Governor’s Cup, we are keenly aware of the enormous economic impact the craft beverage industry has in the Finger Lakes and how the proposed incinerator project in the region would upend all the progress and incredible growth the region has realized over the years,” said Vinny Aliperti, owner of Billsboro Winery.

“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. 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,” said Mark Venuti, Geneva Town Supervisor.

Over 30 local governments and school boards and over 500 local, environmental and business organizations have come out in opposition to the project because it not compatible with current or future economic development goals of the region, or with New York State’s renewable energy standards.

The Senate bill was sponsored by Senator Rachel May and co-sponsored by Senators Pam Helming, Tom O’Mara, Brad Hoylman and Rich Funke. In the Assembly, it was sponsored by Assemblymember Michael Cuisick and co-sponsored by Assemblymembers Barbara Lifton, Phil Palmesano, Brian Kolb, Carrier Woerner, Donna Lupardo, Fred Thiele, Deborah Glick and Gary Finch.

Sen. Helming issued the following statement after the legislation’s passing:

“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 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. On behalf of the residents and business owners of the Finger Lakes region, I strongly urge the Governor to make this happen as soon as possible. Thank you to Senator May and Assemblyman Cusick for their tremendous partnership and outstanding leadership in pushing this important legislation through their respective houses.”

Sen. O’Mara issued the following statement after the passing:

“I have appreciated and welcomed the opportunity over the past two years to join Senator Helming, Senator May, and many legislative colleagues to fight for the enactment of this legislation.  This proposed trash incinerator has stood as a serious threat to the quality, health, and overall safety of many communities throughout the Finger Lakes and Southern Tier regions.  The action to stop it is a great credit to the environmental advocates, winery owners, farmers, business and community leaders, and every concerned citizen who have worked together to lead the charge against it.  We urge Governor Cuomo to swiftly sign this legislation into law.”

This legislation (S.2270/A.5029) prohibits the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) and other state agencies from issuing a waste-to-energy permit for a proposed garbage incinerator if it meets the following conditions:

  • The facility is within the Oswego River/Finger Lakes watershed;
  • There is at least one landfill or other solid waste management facility permitted by the Department of Environmental Conservation and operating or located within a 50-mile radius of the proposed incineration facility;
  • The proposed facility is within 10 miles of a priority waterbody as designated by the Department of Environmental Conservation.