ALBANY, May 15, 2018 — Gov. Andrew Cuomo today strongly condemned plans for a proposed $365 million garbage-burning incinerator in Romulus, joining a groundswell of opposition that now appears insurmountable.
“The trash 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 governor said in a statement Tuesday morning.
Circular Energy LLC, a Rochester startup with no background in waste disposal or energy production, announced its plans in November. The bulk of the garbage it would burn was to have been shipped to the former Seneca Army Depot site by truck or train from New York City.
The company tried and failed to win local support and local zoning permits. Its announced backup plan was to apply for permits from the state Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment under Article 10 of the state Public Service law. The siting board has qualified authority to waive local objections.
But Cuomo’s unequivocal opposition suggests that the siting board permit initiative would be another dead end.
“Importing and burning municipal solid waste in one of the state’s most environmentally sensitive areas is simply not appropriate,” the governor said. “I’m confident that the Article 10 siting board will carefully consider these impacts and reject the project application if one is ever filed.”
Circular enerG has kept its ownership and financing plans private, and it has relied on Rochester attorney Alan Knauf to serve as its public spokesman.
Knauf did not return a phone call today seeking comment on Cuomo’s statement.
Last summer, before it unveiled its plans, Circular enerG convinced a local zoning officer to sign a letter — drafted by the company — stating that the trash incinerator would produce renewable energy. Knauf later cited that letter in his failed bid to win local zoning approval.
Romulus officials have since disavowed the zoning officer’s letter and voiced their unanimous opposition to the incinerator plan.
Meanwhile, a group of state legislators led by state Sen. Pam Helming (R-Canandaigua) and Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton (D-Ithaca) mounted a political campaign to derail the project.
Each sponsored legislation to remove trash incinerators from the list of energy producing facilities that may receive permits from the siting board under Article 10.
State Sen. Tom O’Mara (R-Big Flats), chair of the Senate Committee on the Environment, co-sponsored Helming’s bill, while Assemblyman Brian Kolb (R-Canandiagua), that chamber’s minority leader, was among the backers of Lifton’s bill.
“If the Legislature proposes other solutions,” Cuomo added in his statement, “we will consider all options to protect against this proposal that is at odds with New York’s renewable energy plan and that threatens important natural resources, environmentally sensitive areas, and economic drivers in the Finger Lakes Region.”
Cuomo had been silent on the incinerator plan until today’s statement. But Cynthia Nixon, his expected challenger in the Democratic primary for governor in September, vowed to stop the incinerator, if elected.
At a press conference in Geneva late last month, Nixon asked why Cuomo hadn’t come out definitively against the project, given that is widely viewed as a threat to the tourism-based economy of the wine region.
Nixon poked at Cuomo by saying that California Gov. Jerry Brown would never allow a trash incinerator near Napa Valley, that state’s premier wine region.
Also today, Helming, Lifton, O’Mara, Kolb and others joined a press conference denouncing the Circular enerG incinerator plan.
“This proposal belongs in a trash incinerator,” said Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (R-Corning).