Niagara Gazette

Local News

June 26, 2013

Covanta concerns aired; city officials looking into matter

Niagara Gazette — The city of Niagara Falls has an opportunity to get more from a waste-to-energy facility that operates in the city.

At least that's the view of a community advocate who has researched public policy and the waste industry in Niagara County for years.

Amy Hope Witryol sent a letter to the city of Niagara Falls Planning Board and the city's Environmental Coordinator Alan Nusbaum detailing the reasons she believes the board should revisit its negative declaration determination for the New York State Department of Conservation State Environmental Quality Review.

The review, known as SEQR, is a requirement for Covanta Energy Inc. as they work to reopen a rail spur that will allow the company to accept waste by train. All waste now enters the plant on trucks.

In the letter, Witryol argues the board should consider reopening the SEQR determination because the company provided "inaccurate and incomplete information" during the application process.

Witryol refers to a series of documents including a draft contract term sheet between the New York City Department of Sanitation and Covanta and DEC filings detailing the amounts and types of waste processed at the Niagara Falls plant while making the argument that the planning board did not have all the information it need when deciding on the SEQR determination last fall.

"Covanta asserted that NYC waste would be replacing only Canadian waste, and, that NYC waste would consume approximately 50 percent of Covanta Niagara capacity." Witryol said in the letter. "Both appear to be untrue."

The draft contract identifies two end destination plants run by Covanta for up to 1 million tons of waste each year to be split between the two locations. The terms of the deal run 20 years with two five-year extensions available, according to the draft contract.

A positive declaration would give the city more leverage in negotiating with the company for a better deal. In exchange for hosting garbage incinerators, the city should receive things like a host community agreement and guarantees on the amounts and types of waste processed in years to come, Witryol said in her letter.

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