Niagara Gazette

July 28, 2013

City looking to public to comment on Covanta expansion plan

By Mark Scheer
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — City residents will get another chance to air their opinions on an expansion plan that would allow a local waste-to-energy facility to accept hundreds of thousands of tons of garbage, via rail, from New York City. 

Members of the Niagara Falls Planning Board have scheduled a special hearing for Aug. 14 to allow for additional public comment on a proposed expansion project at Covanta Energy, Inc., which runs a garbage incineration operation off 56th Street.

While City Planner Tom DeSantis said the city’s legal department is not recommending the board revisit its position on the project’s potential environmental impact, he said enough issues about the expansion have been raised to warrant another hearing. He indicated that his office would reach out to Covanta and invite representatives from the company to discuss the proposal with residents in attendance during the hearing. 

“I think this is truly a public policy issue and it really needs to have an airing where public officials can weigh in on these issues,” DeSantis said.

Covanta’s $30 million expansion involves development of a rail transfer station that would allow the plant to accept 300,000 tons of garbage from New York City. In addition, the project includes installation of a new steam pipeline that would support operations at the neighboring Greenpac paper mill as well as a natural gas-fired boiler and a new waste handling facility to prepare incoming garbage for incineration.

Earlier this year, city planning board members authorized a “negative declaration” for the project as part of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s State Environmental Quality Review. In doing so, the board determined that the expansion would not have a “material” change on the facility’s existing operations. 

Lewiston resident Amy Hope Witryol, who has spent years researching the waste industry as an advocate for closing the CWM hazardous waste landfill in the Town of Porter, asked board members to revisit their decision in a letter she delivered to them last month. 

During Wednesday’s planning board meeting, Witryol again asked members to take a closer look at various aspects of the project. 

“I would encourage you to revisit it because I do think that, as presently stated, it will be a very major transformational project for the city and not in a good way,” Witryol said.

DeSantis said the city’s legal department is not recommending that the board reconsider its negative declaration at this time. He said the issue is not “100 percent” closed, however.

“They are very hesitant at this point to recommend rescinding the board’s action,” DeSantis said.

IF YOU GO • WHAT: Niagara Falls Planning Board meeting • WHEN: 6 p.m. Aug. 14 • WHERE: City hall, 745 Main St. • INFO: Hearing will allow public comment on a proposed expansion project at Covanta Energy, Inc.