Niagara Gazette — Residents, company employees and politicians filed into city council chambers Wednesday night to hear a presentation from a waste-to-energy company on an expansion of their facilities and offer comment on the project.
The meeting was called by the city's planning board after residents raised concerns over the plant’s expansion plans and called on the board to revisit a negative declaration it approved earlier this year as part of a required state environmental review, clearing the way for the expansion.
Rick Smith, the planning board chairman, said that the meeting was informational and that the board was not considering any further action at this time.
The city will consider all information collected and provide that information to Corporation Counsel Craig Johnson, Smith said.
“The board has no pending action,” Smith said. “However, we will work with staff to bring all the information provided to us to the city corporation counsel and ask for his evaluation as to the city’s legal options going forward.”
While company representatives argued that the expansion project will be beneficial to the city — creating jobs and reducing the number of garbage trucks on city streets — most residents expressed concerns over possible health risks and the company’s 15-year tax abatement deal granted by the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency in January.
Kevin O’Neil, the business manager at Covanta Niagara, gave the same presentation that was given at a planning board meeting before the board voted to approve the negative declaration on the state environmental review, adding updated information where necessary.
O’Neil outlined the plans, which include the reopening of a rail spur that will allow the company to accept garbage from New York City by rail, a brownfield remediation and storm water drainage improvements.
O’Neil emphasized that the plant expansion will not result in the incinerating of any more waste than the 821,000 they are permitted to burn each year by the Department of Environmental Conservation, the same amount that has been processed at the plant since it opened in 1980.