© 2024 WRVO Public Media
NPR News for Central New York
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Environmental group says Finger Lakes landfill is stifling First Amendment rights

Tom Magnarelli

Seneca Lake Guardian says it's being bullied by Seneca Meadows, the state’s largest landfill. The environmental group recently received a cease-and-desist letter from the law firm representing Seneca Meadows. Seneca Lake Guardian says it believes that letter is an attempt to silence their first amendment rights to speak out against the landfill.

The Seneca Meadows landfill permit expires in 2025, but has requested an extension to stay open through 2040. That’s something environmental organization Seneca Lake Guardian has been advocating against.

Yvonne Taylor, vice president of Seneca Lake Guardian, called it a “David vs Goliath” fight, saying they won’t be silenced.

“It is our mission to protect the Finger Lakes for generations to come," Taylor said. "We're going to continue to call on the governor to stand with everyday people and their right to clean air, water and a healthy environment and not side with the for-profit company fighting to keep Seneca Meadows open beyond its already closure date set for 2025.”

TheSeneca Meadows letter, which was made public by Seneca Lake Guardian, says the environmental organization has engaged in “baseless fearmongering” about the landfill as well as false and defamatory statements about the facility's effect on the community.

Phil Gitlen, the attorney representing Seneca Lake Guardian, disagrees and penned a rebuttal. He said similar tactics were used during their petition against crypto mining by Greenidge Generation.

“Just like in the Greenidge matter, there is a sound, factual basis for Seneca Lake Guardian's opposition to the continued operation of the landfill," Gitlen said. "Seneca Lakes Guardian's opposition to the permit modification is its right of free speech and its right to petition its government and is also protected by New York's anti-SLAPP suit law.”

Ithaca area Assemblywoman Anna Kelles has introduced a bill along with Syracuse area State Senator Rachel May which would require large companies, like Waste Connections the parent company for Seneca Meadows, to measure and report out their chemicals before releasing them into waterways.

Seneca Meadows said in a statement it respects Seneca Lake Guardian’s right to oppose the Landfill. The company provides additional rebuttal to what it says are defamatory, false and misleading claims made by the environmental group. It reads “Seneca Meadows welcomes a civil and factual discussion of the benefits of the landfill, as we believe it is a necessary, critical infrastructure site for waste management in the state of New York.”

Ava Pukatch joined the WRVO news team in September 2022. She previously reported for WCHL in Chapel Hill, NC and earned a degree in Journalism and Media from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At UNC, Ava was a Stembler Scholar and a reporter and producer for the award-winning UNC Hussman broadcast Carolina Connection. In her free time, Ava enjoys theatre, coffee and cheering on Tar Heel sports. Find her on Twitter @apukatch.