Despite opposition from Albany and local groups, the developer is going forward with the project

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday released a statement opposing the trash incinerator proposed for construction on a portion of the former Seneca Army Depot. The 18-story garbage burner planned in the town of Romulus has wide-sweeping opposition from across the Finger Lakes region from numerous government and environmental groups.

Also on Tuesday, local lawmakers joined the governor in stating their opposition after previously coming out against the plan by Rochester-based Circular enerG.

"The Circular enerG 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,” stated Cuomo.

“Importing and burning municipal solid waste in one of the State's most environmentally sensitive areas is simply not appropriate," the governor's statement continues. "I'm confident that the Article 10 siting board will carefully consider these impacts and reject the project application if one is ever filed. If the legislature proposes other solutions, 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."

Legislators are proposing bipartisan legislation in the Assembly and Senate (A.10277, S.8109) to strengthen local control and participation by giving local municipalities the authority to ultimately decide the fate of the project.

On Tuesday, Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb, R-Canandaigua, was joined by other legislators, Finger Lakes residents and local business owners in a show of support for the legislation.

“After weeks of calling on the governor and state officials to block this proposal, Gov. Cuomo released a statement this morning acknowledging this is an ill-advised proposition that goes against New York’s renewable energy plan,” stated Kolb in a release.

“This is a critical effort that provides a stronger voice for the people and communities directly impacted by Circular enerG’s incinerator proposal,” stated Kolb. “As a resident of the Finger Lakes Region, I appreciate the value of our natural resources and recognize that environmental protection is essential to the future success of our area. I’m proud to support this bipartisan bill and urge both the Assembly and Senate to pass it. The governor’s recognition that this project poses a significant threat is encouraging, but we must move forward with a legislative solution that future generations can count on.”

The project would be 3.9 miles from Seneca and Cayuga lakes and 3,200 feet from a K-12 school. Of concern is that the incinerator would generate pollution and also add an inordinate amount of truck traffic and wear-and-tear on local roads.

State Sen. Pam Helming, R-Canandaigua, whose district includes Seneca County and a significant portion of the Finger Lakes, stated that her conversations with “countless local citizens, local business owners, and community leaders” made it "very clear to me, if this project is approved, it will have a devastating impact on Romulus and the entire region. Allowing a proposed solid waste management facility disguised as a power plant to move forward under the Article 10 process is unfair to our local communities and existing businesses.”

The Article 10 is a New York state process for approving large electric generating facilities, and local officials have said the process strips them of local control.

“I appreciate the opportunity to sponsor this legislation with Sen. Helming and join her in the fight to ensure that our local decision makers are given the authority they should rightfully have on proposals and projects like this one,” stated Sen. Tom O'Mara, R-Big Flats, who chairs the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee.

“The Finger Lakes is a peaceful, pristine region that residents and business owners have spent years cultivating. Its flourishing wine and tourism industry has become an economic engine for New York State, contributing nearly $3 billion to the state economy and supporting 60,000 jobs,” stated Joseph Campbell, president of Seneca Lake Guardian. Campbell stated that by rejecting the proposal the governor would stay true to his mission of making crucial investments that protect the environment.

Responding to the opposition in an email to the Messenger, the attorney representing Circular enerG said the project is proceeding.

“It is unfortunate that the Governor has come out against the Circular enerG waste-to-energy project when it is so much better for the environment than the landfills the State is relying upon now,” stated Attorney Alan Knauf with Rochester-based Knauf Shaw LLP. “Waste to energy is preferred under state law, and is what Europe and China are relying on to eliminate pollution and reduce use of fossil fuels.”

“The Circular project will result in a net decrease in greenhouse gas emissions of 168,485 tons per year of carbon dioxide equivalent compared to landfilling, will emit essentially zero dioxins, will not generate offensive odors, and will generate electricity to power a green business park at the contaminated Seneca Army Depot,” said Knauf. “The state should let the siting board process play out, and not pre-judge the proposal before an application is even filed.”

The facility would combust municipal solid waste and whatever could be burned of construction and demolition debris, to generate electrical power for sale in the New York market. Residual materials would be recycled, including metals that would be diverted from the waste stream and/or recovered after burning. According to Circular enerG LLC, the project would provide a state-of-the-art waste-to-energy facility and fulfill a state goal of landfilling as “the last resort.”

The project is proposed for two phases. If permitted, Phase 1 would consist of construction, to begin about summer 2020. Once built, the facility would begin accepting on average 1,320 tons of trash per day and produce about 25 to 40 megawatts of energy. Phase 2 would raise the daily average to 2,640 tons, generating from 50 to 80 megawatts of energy.