By Aaron Besecker

beseckera@gnnewspaper.com

A bill passed by both houses of the state Legislature aimed at limiting toxic flows into the Great Lakes sits among a lot of company.

Like hundreds of other bills, some passed by the Senate and Assembly as far back as February, it awaits the signature of Gov. George Pataki in order for it to become state law.

But for those who believe the state should enact a law to limit hazardous waste siting near the Great Lakes, the work isn’t done.

And the pressure on political leaders from the community is still mounting.

Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte, D-Lewiston, and state Sen. George Maziarz, R-Newfane, both sponsored bills in their respective houses. Both passed over the final two days of the legislative session last week.

But officials in neither office know if, or when, Gov. George Pataki intends to sign it.

A spokesman for the governor said the bill has not yet been transported to the executive offices. But once it arrives, the governor has 10 days in which to sign it or veto it. If the governor does neither, the bill automatically becomes law.

“We don’t comment on anything until we receive it,” said Pete Constantakes, a spokesman in Pataki’s office.

Under the bill, no hazardous waste facility would be allowed to be constructed in the Great Lakes area unless it could prove it did not have the potential to discharge toxic substances into the fresh water system.

CWM Chemical Services, the Northeast’s only hazardous waste facility located in Porter, has applied for a permit from the state to build a new landfill on its site.

DelMonte said she believes the bill should reach the governor’s office no later than September, though there’s always the chance it could take longer.

“Until the bill is called up, the clock doesn’t start ticking,” DelMonte said.

Officials in Maziarz’s office have yet to receive an indication from the governor’s office about the bill’s fate, said Susan Senecah, the senator’s environmental policy director.

Maziarz plans to write a letter to Pataki encouraging him to sign the bill. He also hopes to speak to the governor one-on-one about it, Senecah said.

By law, the governor is able to sign a bill until the end of the year, she added.

April Fideli, vice president of Residents for Responsible Government, a group of environmentally concerned citizens, said she expects the governor will sign the legislation.

“I believe he’ll show the public that he cares,” Fideli said.

Amy Witryol, a Lewiston resident who’s been vocal on environmental issues, said she expects lobbyists hired by CWM’s parent company may still play a role in whether or not the bill is signed.

She pointed to both lobbying efforts and campaign contributions as tactics that can still influence the process.

By the end of the year, Waste Management, CWM’s parent, will have spent more than $1.2 million on lobbyists since 2003.

One of the lobbyists working on behalf of CWM has also contributed to Maziarz’s political campaign.

In 2005, Crane and Vacco donated more than $2,300 to the senator’s coffers.

“Being green is easy when the governor is credited with land purchases in the Adirondacks,” Witryol said. “Being green won’t stick if he cannot oppose the toxic waste lobby on what Sen. Maziarz called a ‘no-brainer’ of a bill.”

Contact Aaron Besecker at 282-2311, Ext. 2263.

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