Niagara Gazette — Included in that expansion is the addition of a natural gas furnace that will operate as a back up for the company’s new steam line that will supply steam energy to surrounding factories.
That gas furnace and the 190-foot smoke stack that comes with it were not mentioned in the public notice. Neither was the approved rail spur that will allow the company’s Niagara facility to accept New York City waste.
At the April meeting, company employees and DEC employees were on hand in the banquet hall of a Niagara Falls Boulevard hotel to explain the expansions and permit renewal to interested residents. Only four residents — including Witryol and Kudela — and a handful of city officials attended the information session.
The banquet hall was lined with brightly colored posters and maps, some promoting the environmental virtues of waste-to-energy facilities. The permit application was available for review on another table running along the side of the room.
Witryol argues that the public notice and the materials at the information meeting seemed more like an advertisement for the company than the thorough explanation of public health risks associated with the company’s expansion that the environmental justice policy calls for.
“Even if residents had got a flier on their door they would not have known that it was a meeting discussing taking garbage from New York City and installing a new smoke stack,” she said.
Witryol said that in communicating with the Region 9 DEC, which covers Western New York, it seems as though their permitting department rubber stamps environmental justice plan applications as a matter of practice.
“They leave compliance with their own state environmental justice policy entirely to the discretion of the applicant,” Witryol said. “That’s the fox guarding the hen house.”
The Gazette reached out to the DEC’s Region 9 offices for comment, but none was offered by the agency.