Helming, Kolb among those backing bills to protect Finger Lakes from such operations

ROMULUS — Several state legislators, including Assembly Leader Brian Kolb and state Sen. Pam Helming, are trying to put a stop to Circular enerG’s proposal to build one of the state’s largest waste incinerators at the former Seneca Army Depot in Romulus.

Helming, R-Canandaigua, and state Sen. Rachel May, D-Syracuse, and Assemblymember Michael Cusick, D-Staten Island, with strong support from Kolb and Assemblymember Phil Palmesano, R-Corning, introduced bills in the state Senate and Assembly that would stop developers from building garbage incinerators in the Finger Lakes.

Thirty-five groups and elected officials, representing Finger Lakes businesses and wineries — including Romulus Town Supervisor David Kaiser and the Seneca Lake Guardian, a not-for-profit organization that has spearheaded the effort to stop the incinerator — applauded the bill introduction as an important way to protect the Finger Lakes economy.

Barring swift passage of this bill, the Finger Lakes region faces a lengthy, costly Article 10 process that removes local control of decision-making over the project.

The bill was unanimously passed in the Senate last year, but failed to come to the Assembly floor at the end of the legislative session. This year, Assemblymembers Barbara Lifton, Palmesano, Kolb, Carrier Woerner, Donna Lupardo, Fred Thiele, Deborah Glick and Gary Finch are co-sponsoring the bill.

“The Finger Lakes deserves immediate protection from any corporation looking to exploit its land and natural resources,” said Yvonne Taylor, vice president of Seneca Lake Guardian, in a prepared statement. “This toxic incinerator could have devastating effects to our region’s economy, public health and quality of life and we urge Albany to act immediately to get this bill passed.”

Circular enerG LLC’s proposed incinerator calls for the transportation of thousands of tons of additional trash from around the state daily by truck and/or rail for burning. The Finger Lakes is already home to three large landfills that accept waste from a large geographic area: Seneca Meadows in Seneca County, the Ontario County landfill in the town of Seneca and High Acres in Perinton, Monroe County.

The facility, which would include a 260-foot smokestack, would be constructed between Seneca and Cayuga lakes.

The town of Romulus, elected officials, residents and advocates have openly opposed the proposal over community health, environment, and economic concerns.

“The Finger Lakes is home to a flourishing wine and tourism industry, renowned for its pristine landscapes and bucolic scenery. This trash incinerator puts the years of work our community has made to develop these industries in jeopardy,” said Will Ouweleen, secretary of the Finger Lakes Wine Business Coalition (FLXWBC) in a prepared statement.

Farm disaster recovery

Helming is sponsoring a bill that would establish a small farm disaster recovery grant program. The bill, Helming announced earlier this week, has advanced through the Senate Agriculture Committee.

The legislation, if passed, will provide financial relief to small farms that have been affected by natural disasters. The committee, of which Helming is a member, approved the bill and has now sent it to the full Senate for a vote. A similar bill in the Assembly has been referred to that house’s Agriculture Committee.

The legislation (S.271) establishes a small farm disaster recovery grant program that would be administered by the state Department of Agriculture and Markets and the Empire State Development Corp. The program would provide financial relief to small farms that have been affected by natural disasters with grant awards of up to $10,000. The bill defines small farms as a farm that sells produce and has annual sales of $100,000 or less.

Grants will be used specifically to purchase and replant crops that have been destroyed by a natural disaster.