by Terry Duffy
The state Department of Environmental Conservation Facility Siting Board and DEC Commissioner Joe Martens announced this week the DEC would extend, yet again, the public commentary period on the CWM Chemical Services expansion/new hazardous waste proposal application before the agency.
"Due to extensive public interest and requests for additional time to comment on the permit application, the public can now submit comments until Oct. 20, 2014," said DEC in a statement.
It represents the second such extension DEC has granted since it first announced a "notice of complete application" on the CWM expansion/new landfill proposal last May. Public comments opened May 7 and were to continue through July 7. However, soon after the DEC announcement came calls from the area's legislators in Albany for DEC to extend to comment period. That period was extended and scheduled to run until Sept. 5. But DEC, following very heated comments in opposition from the community heard on the issue from the July 16 hearings at Lewiston-Porter High School and in other venues has opted to extend it yet again.
DEC said it would also be extending to Oct. 20, for the filing of petitions for party status relative to the CWM proposal. Those petitions must be received at DEC's Office of Hearings and Mediation Services in Albany no later than 4 p.m. on Oct. 20.
Favorable reactions to the extension announcement came from the local citizens group Residents for Responsible Government and state Assemblyman John Ceretto, who were both pushing hard on DEC and the Siting Board to extend the period, given the seriousness of the proposal, the heated Lew-Port hearings, unfavorable community reactions and its potential impact.
"In the weeks leading up to the recent DEC Siting Board hearing at Lewiston-Porter High School, RRG asked the community to attend and make their voices heard. Close to 1,600 local residents and concerned citizens from around Western New York came out in force and their response was deafening," commented RRG President April Fideli in a recent statement. "One by one, over 75 people stepped up to the microphone and went on record in heartfelt and passionate opposition to CWM's proposed expansion. Elected officials from Assemblyman John Ceretto, Niagara County Legislature Chairman Bill Ross and Lewiston Supervisor Dennis Brochey spoke eloquently, united in their vehement opposition to a CWM expansion.
"Members of the 8-member Siting Board appointed by Gov. Cuomo were all present and got the message loud and clear, that we are united as a community and region and have simply had enough!" said Fideli.
RRG member and Lewiston environmental activist Tim Henderson reiterated those sentiments and offered an optimistic response this week to the DEC announcement.
"The DEC has granted the recent 45-day extension to the public comment period to Oct 20 in consideration for the overwhelming response from the community," said Henderson. "There is a ton of information to be digested and processed by the public in light of the fact that CWM's original application for the RMU 2 and 60 million gallon lagoons goes back to 2003. Literally thousands of pages of documents, graphs, and charts are available at local libraries.
"This project will singularly define the future of the Lewiston-Porter area. It will either be denied and we'll all be able to breathe easier and drive on safe roads again or worse case scenario, the public will be ignored and it will be approved and we will continue to live in the landfill's shadow and be known as the toxic waste dump of the northeast for the next 40 years. I am optimistic that the DEC and the Siting Board heard this community loud and clear and will do the right thing and shut them down."
Ceretto, a CWM opponent who pushed DEC Commission Martens for the extension, was pleased this week at the news. "I have heard from countless constituents that are deeply concerned about the proposed expansion of the CWM landfill. I share their concerns and believe a full public vetting of the expansion proposal must be done," said Ceretto.
"The extension of the public comment period is good news for residents who want their voices to be heard. Through this process, we will better understand the impact this expansion would have on our community and be able to make a more informed decision."
Comments can now be submitted until Oct. 20 by mail to Chief Administrative Law Judge James T. McClymonds, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, Office of Hearings and Mediation Services, 625 Broadway, 1st Floor, Albany, New York 12233-5500. Comments may also be submitted via email address to [email protected].