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New York State Legislature passes bill to stop trash incineration in the Finger Lakes

Sen. Pam Helming
Finger Lakes area State Sen. Pam Helming (R-Canandaigua) was a sponsor of the bill that would ban trash incinerators in the Finger Lakes.

The so-called Finger Lakes Community Preservation Act was carefully crafted to prevent the construction of the proposed $365-million trash incinerator in the town of Romulus in Seneca County. The act bans state agencies from approving the construction of incineration facilities if they are within the Oswego River/Finger Lakes Watershed, 50 miles from a landfill, and 10 miles from a DEC-designated priority water body. The bill failed to pass the Assembly last year.

Opponents to the waste-to-energy facility proposed by Rochester-based Circular EnerG, such as Finger Lakes area State Sen. Pam Helming (R-Canandaigua), say the facility would create toxic emissions and ash as well as odors that would jeopardize the entire region.

"Banning a potential threat like the construction of a new garbage incinerator, which has the potential to pollute not only the water and the air, - it's a really a good thing to get this legislation passed," Helming said. "I think it speaks to the importance of the Finger Lakes and how our region relies so much on the economic benefits and the environmental benefits of having these clean, pristine lakes."

Helming says the trash incinerator is currently awaiting approval from the New York State Public Service Commission.

Circular EnerG Attorney Alan Knauf says their technology would actually provide a greener use for trash than the available alternatives, so this act actually harms the environment.

"I think the politicians are just reacting to complaints by citizens who unfortunately are not well informed," Knauf said. "Really what the legislature should be doing is saying what's the best solution here? We know recycling is broken, we know landfilling is broken, let’s set a course to have a responsible way to deal with our waste."

Knauf says the company is considering a constitutional legal challenge if Gov. Andrew Cuomo signs the bill into law. Circular EnerG is also weighing other potential sites for the facility.

The legislation failed to pass the Assembly last year.

Payne Horning is a reporter and producer, primarily focusing on the city of Oswego and Oswego County. He has a passion for covering local politics and how it impacts the lives of everyday citizens. Originally from Iowa, Horning moved to Muncie, Indiana to study journalism, telecommunications and political science at Ball State University. While there, he worked as a reporter and substitute host at Indiana Public Radio. He also covered the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly for the statewide Indiana Public Broadcasting network.