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State law could block town leaders from acting

March 01, 2018 05:43 AM

A plan calls for an 18-story garbage incinerator to be built in a small Finger Lakes town. It has many people up in arms, but they might not have much say about whether or not the project happens.

In Romulus, the proposed garbage incinerator has caused quite a stir.

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"Most of the stuff this plant will create are renewable, and the biggest thing this plant will create is opportunity in this area," said Michael Davis, Local IBEW Manager

The economic development project has divided the community.

"It's not just this community,” said Joseph Campbell, President of Seneca Lake Guardians. It's the entire Finger Lakes region.  There was immediate wide-spread and vehement opposition from towns from counties."

Counties like neighboring Ontario already passed a resolution against the project. The Town of Romulus will vote in a few weeks to do the same.
  
"The Finger Lakes region and Seneca County especially is already home to the largest landfill in New York State, and there's already thousands and thousands of tons of garbage coming into this county every day,” Campbell said. “This would just add to that."

An estimated 3,000 tons of garbage come into the area every day. However, Campbell and people in Romulus might not have much say in the matter. Circular Energy has taken their application to the state under a law known as Article 10.

"What concerns me is the Article 10 Siting Board can overrule the town's zoning," Campbell said. “If they were going through the town, they would never get these permits."
   
"The Siting Board has authority to site regardless of the local laws," said Alan Knauf, an environmental attorney.

Article 10 puts the decisions making for major renewable energy projects in the hands of a state board of seven, five of which are state appointees.

"The problem is you get local opposition,” Knauf said. “And, as a result, there might not have any power plants. We're confident that we'll prevail in the siting board."

Knauf denied claims that the company is circumventing local decision making. He said that the state required the company to go this route, due to the project’s size.

News10NBC reached out to the board who will hear this case. They said that they haven't received an application yet, but tell us: "Any proposed waste-to-energy project would undergo an extensive environmental and public review process". 

"We've got a huge amount of garbage, and we've got to do something with it,” Knauf said. “Let's get the maximum use out of that and generate electricity."

People in Romulus told News10NBC that a garbage incinerator isn't the type of renewable energy project that the siting board should be considering, especially in the Finger Lakes.
"Incineration of garbage produces toxics," Campbell said. “We're 3,200 feet from the Romulus K-12 Central School." 

“It's going to be huge,” he added. “180 feet tall. That's 18 stories.  We don't have any 18 story buildings in the Finger Lakes."

The company said that it will submit the paperwork to begin the process soon. The first step will be a public comment period.

News10NBC will continue to keep an eye on when the application is submitted and when any public hearings are scheduled.

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