ALBANY, May 24, 2019 — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo today signed into law a bill that bans development of new garbage incinerators in the Finger Lakes region, blocking a plan to build a proposed $365 million facility in Romulus.
The bill had passed unanimously in both the state Senate and state Assembly more than two months ago.
“The Finger Lakes region remains one of New York’s must-see destinations with some of the most beautiful natural resources in the world. It is crucial that we protect it,” Cuomo said. “We are not willing to put the region’s economy, public health and quality of life at risk.”
The bill, A5029a, is a variation on a bill introduced last year, which died after Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie declined to call a floor vote in that chamber even though the bill had previously passed the state Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support.
“With the Finger Lakes Community Preservation Act becoming law, communities should now be able to refocus their energies on growing the Finger Lakes economy without the looming fear of an environmental or economic disruption,” said Joseph Campbell, president of Seneca Lake Guardian, which spearheaded opposition to proposed Romulus project.
Circular enerG LLC of Rochester had announced plans in November 2017 to develop the state’s largest trash burner on the former Seneca Army Depot property. It stated its intent to obtain operating permits under Article 10 of state Public Service Law.
But with the enactment of the new law, Circular enerG’s permit application process appears to be moot, as does a lawsuit the company had filed against the Town of Romulus in a zoning dispute.
Under the company’s announced plan, the incinerator would have imported municipal waste from New York City by truck or by train.
The project’s supporters touted the facility as a superior alternative to landfills. But the plan stirred fierce local opposition among area residents and public officials, including state Senate and Assembly members who represent the Finger Lakes.
“Our town is grateful to Gov. Cuomo, our local representative in the Legislature and the bill co-sponsors for championing this bill to protect our region from dangerous trash incinerators,” said David Kaiser, Town Supervisor of the Town of Romulus.
The site for the proposed incinerator, roughly midway between Lakes Seneca and Cayuga, was only 3,200 feet from the K-12 Romulus Central School.
The proposed facility would have had the capacity to burn 2,640 tons of garbage a day. It’s 260-foot smokestack would have been visible miles away.
Under the new law, trash incinerators — or waste-to-energy facilities, as the industry prefers to call them — will be prohibited from receiving a certificate of environmental compatibility and public need if:
— The proposed site lies within the Oswego River/Finger Lakes Watershed.
— There is at least one landfill or other state permitted solid waste management facility located within 50 miles.
— The site is within 10 miles of a state-designated priority water body.
The measure was sponsored in the Assembly by Assembly Member Michael Cusick (D-Staten Island) and in the state Senate by
Sen. Rachel May (D-Syracuse). Both Cusick and May thanked Cuomo for blocking “harmful projects” from being built in the environmentally sensitive Finger Lakes region.
Also supporting the bill were Sen. Pam Helming (R-Canandaigua), Sen. Tom O’Mara (R-Big Flats), Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb (R-Canandaigua) and Assembly Member Phil Palmesano (R-Corning).