Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

October 19, 2013

Fighting waste

By Rick Pfeiffer rick.pfeiffer@lockportjournal.com
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Buffeted by a strong headwind, a determined group of environmental activists stood on a chilly street corner Friday and demanded that the Niagara County Legislature immediately approve a contract to pay for experts leading the fight against an expansion of the CWM landfill in Lewiston.

“The county legislature should not play politics with people’s lives,” said April Fideli, the president of Residents for Responsible Government, a citizens group that has led the fight to stop the expansion of the hazardous waste landfill in the Town of Porter. “We simply ask that, 40 years later, the legislature do its part to close the door on a practice that is both dangerous and depressing to our economy. Ten million tons (of toxic waste) is enough.”

RRG is upset over a decision by the legislature earlier this week to delay a contract extension with attorney Gary Abraham, who has been providing advice to opponents of CWM’s plan to expand its landfill.

“The county wouldn’t go through NYPA (New York Power Authority) relicensing without professional expertise,” Fideli said. “The public position against toxic waste dumping in Niagara County requires a credible and properly funded effort.”

A resolution calling for the extension of the attorney’s contract was referred, Tuesday, by county lawmakers to the legislature’s Administration Committee. Members of the Republican-led majority said the referral was needed to give them an opportunity to meet with Abraham and discuss his ongoing work. 

Abraham has been helping in the fight against landfill expansion since 2005 under a joint agreement funded by both the county and the Town of Lewiston.

“The county legislature has had more than seven years to ask questions about expert work on the state hazardous waste and siting process,” Fideli said. “Just ahead of state toxic waste hearings, why did the legislature halt (funding for) experts needed to defend us?”

Fideli said she hoped the wind-swept news conference would raise awareness about the need for the attorney and the health, science and legal experts who are working with him in preparation for the upcoming New York State Department of Environmental Conservation hearings. She said those hearings could begin as early as November.

A resolution supporting the contract extension was co-sponsored by Legislature Chairman Bill Ross, C-Wheatfield, and Legislator Clyde Burmaster, R-Ransomville. It would continue to call for a split of the costs between the county and the town. 

Burmaster, who has long supported efforts to oppose landfill expansion, has said that he’s hopeful the measure will ultimately win approval once it has been reviewed by committee members.

Fideli acknowledged the long time support of the county legislature.

“We thank the legislators for their longstanding opposition to toxic dumping,” Fideli said. “But we’re concerned about the decision to delay (approval of the experts’ contract).”

In early October, members of the Lewiston Town Board agreed to set aside $50,000 in the town’s 2014 budget to fund the agreement with the county. The town’s budget has not yet been approved.