Niagara Gazette

Local News

February 2, 2014

Group says Covanta's outreach effort not meeting state's environmental justice policy

Niagara Gazette — A petition and letter circulated by a Niagara Falls waste-to-energy company has drawn the ire of a group of Niagara County residents.

Amy Witryol of Lewiston and Shirley Hamilton and Chris Kudela of Niagara Falls wrote New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joseph Martens asking that the agency revisit its approval of Covanta Niagara’s environmental justice outreach plan, a requirement linked to the modification of the company’s air permit which is currently under review for renewal.

“The DEC-approved (environmental justice) Plan required only that Covanta Notice its public meeting in the newspaper,” the residents said in the letter to Martens. “ Therefore, the DEC presumption was that all low-income households had newspaper subscriptions. We disagreed and asked Covanta be required to conduct another meeting and notice the community by flyers or mail.”

Witryol, Hamilton and Kudela argue the company should have been required to send mailings to all residents of the environmental justice area. The company’s Niagara plant sits in a potential environmental justice area with the neighborhoods to the north, east and south also included, according to maps on the DEC’s website and was required to conform to the statutes in the state’s environmental justice policy as a part of the permit renewal process.

Environmental justice areas are determined by a set of criteria based on poverty and minority residency rates calculated using U.S. Census data.

Companies seeking permits to emit or handle pollutants or State Environmental Quality Review approvals within environmental justice areas are required to make extra efforts to educate the community on the nature of their operations or expansions.

Covanta’s air permit requires modification because the company is in the process of installing a new gas boiler and smoke stack, part of a larger project that will include the reopening of a rail spur, a new steam line and other infrastructure projects at the plant.

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