by Autumn Evans
Sustainable BioElectric, the Wheatfield branch of Quasar Energy Group of Ohio, has filed an Article 78 lawsuit in Erie County Civil Supreme Court against the Town of Wheatfield over the town's biosolids law.
The suit was filed Nov. 26, though Town Attorney Robert O'Toole said they received notice only last week because it was sent through mail.
In the suit, Quasar is arguing the town did not properly follow State Environmental Quality Review or Municipal Home Rule Law procedures, that the law was preempted by the state Department of Agriculture and Markets and the law violates the group's rights as granted by the Department of Environmental Conservation.
In a statement, Quasar Biomass Account Executive Nathan Carr said, "We are asking the Supreme Court to recognize that this law is invalid, stretches well beyond the town's authority and unfairly targets one company. The Town of Wheatfield changed the rules on us after we secured all the necessary permits, invested millions of dollars building the facility, and hired local employees.
"From the beginning of the process, Quasar has worked tirelessly and in good faith with the town to answer all questions and it is unfortunate that so far we have been unable to come to an amicable resolution."
At Monday's Town Board meeting, where the issue was brought up, both O'Toole and some residents made it clear they disagreed with those statements.
"There's a lot of interesting arguments that I feel fairly good that we'll be able to defend," O'Toole said.
Resident John Wozniak agreed, saying, "You've got a good case, and I think it's full of hot air, that Article 78."
Another resident, Laurie Galbo, asked the board whether it was considering a counter-suit.
"I know that in the past that when we've asked if there was going to be litigation from the town to them, the answer was 'no,'" she said. "Now I'm wondering, now that they have initiated litigation, are you now going to consider litigation against them for the lies, the misrepresentation, and the modifications of operations of the tank from Class B to Class A?"
O'Toole responded, "Obviously we would consider anything as part of this process, but our primary concern is to maintain our law to protect our citizens."
"We're going to vigorously defend the suit, and we have a lot of confidence that we took the time and the effort to do things right when we adopted the law," he said.
A return court date is set for January.