Comments on the City of New York's 1998 Draft Solid Waste Management Plan

by Gary Abraham, President
Concerned Citizens of Cattaraugus County, Inc.
April 13, 1999
link to full text of comments below
Reliance on export of garbage as the primary solution to New York City's waste management problems has unleashed a frenzy of commercial speculation in garbage that threatens upstate land use plans and state economic goals far more important than the City's garbage problem.  Feeling the most direct adverse effects of the Citys failure to implement meaningful waste reduction policies, rural and small city upstate communities are going to war against the Citys SWMP.  To the extent that City residents rely on upstate water, diary and other farm products, and recreational sites and the goodwill of local people who live and work at those sites, a SWMP based primarily on new landfills upstate will have adverse effects on the community character of the state as a whole, and specifically on rural-urban socioeconomic relations.  If the SWMP included programs to achieve a goal of 40 percent reduction in the City's waste stream, the excess landfill capacity that already exists upstate would be adequate to meet the City's needs and avoid escalation of the garbage war now taking place between the City and its own minority communities and between the City and rural and small cities upstate.

In Cattaraugus County a commercial landfill proposal for the Town of Farmersville introduced in 1990 nearly died two years ago when the landfill developer went bankrupt fighting local opposition.  However, the speculation in garbage created by the combination of the scheduled closing of Fresh Kills and the absence of any meaningful waste reduction in New York City has revived the proposal.  As a result, the developer is preparing an application for a state permit.  Commercial landfill proposals have also been revived in the nearby towns of Eagle (Wyoming Co.), Angelica (Allegany Co.), and Albion (Orleans Co.). A commercial landfill proposal was recently rejected in the Town of Allen (Allegany Co.) even though the landfill developer paid for outside legal counsel for the town.  Applications for expansion of existing area commercial landfills have also been submitted to the state.  New landfills, however, face an uphill battle because a state permit is not enough.  Every new landfill must be approved by the local municipality as well.

The Cattaraugus County legislature and the City of Olean, which relies for its drinking water supply on surface waters fed in part by the wetlands around the Farmersville site, have hired Michael Gerrard of Arnold and Porter to represent them in opposition to a likely DEC permit application. Over 400 people (out of a total county population of 85,000) attended a scoping meeting on the Farmersville proposal two weeks ago, expressing unanimous opposition.  Local sentiments are directed against the corrupt garbage industry, the irresponsibility of New York City waste management policy, and the regional inequity presented by the existing over-concentration of commercial landfills in western New York.

Under these conditions, New York City cannot rely on the siting of additional landfills in New York State. The controversy over garbage upstate has become regional, reproducing the same issues and the same sorts of parties to the siting dispute in each new case.  It is more and more likely that local town and county officials will join concerned citizens groups in opposing new landfills because there is no garbage crisis upstate: today most western New York counties have achieved a 40 percent reduction in their 1991 waste streams and there are currently millions of tons per year of excess landfill capacity in the area.

Mayor Giuliani's government ignores us at his peril.  Without waste minimization policies New York City will find itself increasingly isolated. There will be no landfill in Farmersville, nor will any other new landfill be sited upstate any time soon.
The above text was submitted on behalf of CCCC by Leslie Lowe (Executive Director, NYC Environmental Justice Alliance) at the scoping meeting at Mayor Giuliani's office on April 13, 1999. CCCC's written comments on the NYC SWMP were submitted  on April 23, 1999. These more detailed comments are available by clicking here.