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Governor signs law banning Finger Lakes trash incinerators

Credit Jenna Flanagan/Innovation Trail

The siting of large trash incinerators in the Finger Lakes region is prohibited under legislation signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. 

Cuomo announced on Friday that the law is intended to protect farmers and wineries in the Finger Lakes from adverse environmental effects and preserve the region's $3 billion wine and tourism economy. 

“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 legislation was introduced in response to community opposition to a proposal to build a $365 million waste-to-energy incinerator in Romulus.

Among those pleased about the new legislation is Will Ouweleen.  He is secretary of the Finger Lakes Wine Business Coalition and says this incinerator would have added to a trash problem the region already has.

“The Finger Lakes is become a world class wine and tourism destination and the roads are already clogged with garbage trucks from New York City; this incinerator would have just increased the number of trash trucks and trash traffic on the roads, the bucolic roads of the finger lakes,” Ouweleen said.

The proposed incinerator would have burned trash to produce electricity for businesses at the former Seneca Army Depot.

Joseph Campbell  is with the group, Seneca Lake Guardian, which has helped lead opposition to the incinerator.  He contends that the new incinerator would have created more environmental problems and hurt the efforts to promote tourism in the Finger Lakes.

“Here we have this pristine…we’ve got clean air, we’ve got clean water, we’ve got a booming economy that’s based on tourism and agriculture and this would have done nothing to add to that, it would have put all of that at risk,” Campbell said.

Alan Knauf, a lawyer for Circular enerG,  the company that wanted to build the incinerator, will challenge the new law in court.  Knauf contends that the new law is unconstitutional.

Knauf said that, “It is too bad that the State wants to keep relying on landfilling in the Finger Lakes Region, which results in odors, emission of dioxins from uncontrolled landfill fires, and high greenhouse gas emissions rather than advanced waste-to-energy technologies used downstate, in Buffalo and Syracuse, in Florida, and across the rest of the world.”  

Opponents of the incinerator say that the facility would have created more environmental problems, not less.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Copyright 2019 WXXI News

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's Director of News and Public Affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.