by Terry Duffy
Among the many news items covered at Monday's Lewiston Town Board work session came a bombshell: Town Supervisor Dennis Brochey revealed the state Department of Environmental Conservation has moved on approving four permits with Quasar Energy of Ohio, allowing for use of upward of 2,500 acres of lands in the Town of Lewiston for the injection of processed equate from a Quasar facility in Wheatfield. State DEC approved the permits last summer; they allow for the injection/spreading of equate on lands in the town to begin almost as soon as the ground thaws.
It was learned Monday the permits were approved by DEC last August. That information was conveyed via correspondence from DEC to then Lewiston Supervisor Steve Reiter where it sat with no response.
Town Building Inspector Tim Masters recently uncovered this information and revealed the information to Brochey.
"Mr. Masters and I are very much aware of this, and I have instructed him to email Quasar our concerns," Brochey said.
No prior approval is needed, although Brochey and Town Board members indicated they do intend to fight it. "I contacted Nathan Carr (of Quasar Energy)," Brochey said, "and I told him these (Quasar's plans) are not valid."
At issue are four Lewiston sites under consideration: on Dickersonville and Swann roads; and three locations, unspecified, on Saunders Settlement Road just east of Chew Road, adjacent to Smoking Joes and across from the Niagara-Wheatfield School District.
Lewiston resident William Kraft of Lewiston Residents Against Lagoons, a residents group formed last fall when news broke that a Quasar lagoon was considered for Porter Center Road, appeared at Monday's Town Board session. Kraft said he's had conversations with Lisa Porter of DEC's Buffalo office, who told him DEC has given its approval for four sites in the town and 10 locations in Niagara County. Kraft said the Porter Center Road site was no longer under consideration.
Indeed, according to a page on the DEC website titled "Quasar Anaerobic Digestion Facilities, December 2013 Fact Sheet, Quasar Anaerobic Digestion Facilities - Update," under "types of permits," is the following:
"Solid waste and air pollution control permits have been issued for the anaerobic digestion facilities located on Liberty Drive in Wheatfield and North America Drive in West Seneca. A solid waste permit has also been issued to Quasar subsidiary Sustainable BioElectric LLC for the land application of the digestate on ten (10) specific farm fields in various Niagara County municipalities (Cambria, Lewiston, Pendleton, Wheatfield and Wilson). There are two permit modification applications currently under review with DEC to add additional specific fields to this permit. These additional fields are located in various municipalities in Niagara, Erie and Wyoming Counties. Any field on which the company wants to land apply the digestate must be approved by DEC prior to land application of the material. There is also a solid waste permit application under review with DEC for an approximately 1 million gallon storage tank in the Town of Marilla to hold the digested material during times of year when it cannot be land applied directly from the digestion facility."
"We never knew anything about permits being approved by the DEC," Kraft said. "There're right now on file, completed permits, allowing for spreading of equate in the Town of Lewiston in those four sites."
"Lewiston (has) laws that exist in the town code," Kraft continued. "Problem is we need to inform them (the DEC and Quasar). Other communities have put forth a moratorium."
He promised a heavy turnout of residents at the March 24 Town Board meeting.
A call to the state DEC office in Buffalo Tuesday failed to reveal any insight regarding the DEC procedures, first on site selections in these communities and how DEC communicates with the affected towns regarding its approval of permits for this type of operation. A DEC public affairs rep indicated a response would be forthcoming and as of Thursday none had come.
Brochey, meanwhile, revealed Thursday that he spoke with Quasar's Carr following the Monday meeting and reiterated the negative sentiment building among town residents regarding the DEC digestate application permits. "I told him that I'm standing up for what the people want, and that's not for this to happen," said Brochey. "I told him, 'Do me a favor, back down on this.' "
Brochey informed Carr of the residents' anticipated show of opposition at the March 24 meeting and suggested he might not want to show up. And Brochey said he intends to make an unannounced visit to Quasar's Ohio facilities to see for himself just what's what when it comes its equate processes and applications. "Yes, I'll be going there unannounced; I don't want to them to have it all nice ..."
Brochey said he instructed Masters to email Quasar a copy of the Town of Lewiston codebook and said the company could be facing fines if they attempt to begin applications in the town. "It's my understanding that if they do, they could be facing a $5,000 fine. We will push a fine if we find them doing anything," said Brochey. "I'm going to fight this."
In other news from Monday's session:
•Councilman Mike Marra presented a resolution for the New York Power Authority to begin to contribute funding to the town for Lewiston police and fire protection. Currently NYPA, whose operations encompass more than 2,400 acres of Lewiston lands on a tax-free basis, fails to "provide reimbursement" to Lewiston as a host community for such first responder services as police and fire, said Marra. He noted that, in addition to Lewiston Police, town fire companies including Upper Mountain, Lewiston No. 1, Lewiston No. 2 and Sanborn, all respond to major fires and other disasters at NYPA facilities. "It's something we feel that Lewiston deserves," said Marra.
Following board discussion regarding an acceptable contribution, it was agreed that the resolution request NYPA to pay "an annual payment for police, fire protection" to the town. It was also suggested that council members Ron Winkley and Marra be appointed to serve as negotiators with NYPA on the request.
Soon after, the resolution by Marra and Winkley passed unanimously.
•The board opted to table finalizing its agreement with Niagara County to provide a share of legal funding for environmental attorney Gary Abraham. The attorney had been retained on behalf of the county and town in preparation for the anticipated legal battle with hazardous waste landfiller CWM Chemical Services, which has applications on file for expansion with the state Department of Environmental Conservation that both Lewiston and the county oppose.
Town Attorney Mark Davis told board members he still had to review language with the county attorney. Members agreed to table the matter until the March 24 meeting.
•The Town Board will meet in special session, Tuesday, March 18, at 5:30 p.m. at Town Hall to discuss the CWM legal agreement and then enter into executive session to interview candidates for the open Town Board position.
•The board will hold a joint meeting with Village of Lewiston trustees at 5 p.m. Monday, March 24, at Town Hall. The board's regular meeting follows at 6:30 p.m.