Do You Know What
Time It Is?
It’s Time to Protect Olean’s Green Spaces
by Maureen Sheahan-McClure of Olean
On Thursday, June 19, 2003, a bicyclist heading for a tranquil ride on the Allegheny River Valley Trail in Olean, New York heard a huge cracking sound and saw trees falling in the woods alongside the Trail. Huge machinery was ripping tall trees from the ground as bewildered deer ran for cover.
The cyclist Marcia Kelly asked Olean city officials what was going on and was told Benderson Development owned the land was clear-cutting it for development. With further inquiry it became evident two laws were broken: a city timber harvesting law that requires a permit for five cords or more to be harvested, and a state law that requires an environmental review for any alteration of land over 10 acres.
A group of concerned citizens formed the Allegheny River Trail Protection Association (ARTPA) to stop the clear-cutting pending a review of the laws. ARTPA sued the City of Olean and Benderson for ignoring the state environmental review law. It is quiet at the mostly devastated site adjacent to the old Saint Francis hospital, but only after a court-ordered injunction to stop the cutting, court pro- ceedings that threw out the injunction for lack of timely filing, attempted negotiation with city officials and Benderson lawyers to stop the cutting again, a plea to the city council, and finally a stop-work order to Benderson issued by Mayor Bill Quinlin. As soon as the mayor issued the stop-work order, ARTPA dropped their lawsuit. A thoughtful review of the law and the environmental issues was ARTPA’s goal, not litigation.
Benderson should have submitted a site plan for the city planning board to review before any cutting occurred. Benderson also should have obtained a timber harvesting permit from the Common Council. Benderson must now submit their plan and disclose the intended purpose for destroying one of Olean’s last remaining urban woodlands.
We are now waiting for Benderson’s development plan, and an environmental review of that plan. Approximately half of the 17-acre site is now clear-cut. It is uncertain whether the city will enforce its timber harvesting law, which provides for fines and imprisonment.
Must we have a strip of pavement and buildings along the jewel of the Allegany River Valley Trail, such as we see on Constitution Avenue? Can we have a buffer zone that protects the 5.6-mile trail from the kind of development Benderson wants? Can we have trees replanted alongside the trail where Benderson property is? Can we plant trees along Constitution Avenue? Can we work with local government officials and landowners to find a healthy balance between development and the environment? Can we protect and develop green spaces in residential urban areas?
ARTPA has now joined CCCC. With a common vision ARTPA and CCCC bring hundreds of voices together to express environmental concerns and seek healthful solutions. Stay tuned for our continuing efforts to protect the quality of life in Olean-Allegany and thoughtfully develop our community. Help us resolve some of the questions we have and demand the right to participate in important decisions about our future.
Stop and see the Benderson clear-cutting site near south 19th St. as Henley St. crosses the trail. From there extend your time to walk, bicycle, or roller-blade a short distance to the Allegheny River and enjoy the beauty that still remains.
CCCC Wins Environment Award
by Glen Chambers of Hinsdale
On August 1st, Scott Merkel, Gary Abraham and I represented CCCC at an awards ceremony sponsored by the Center for Health, Environment and Justice. Lois Gibbs, known for her dogged and successful efforts in revealing the hazards of Love Canal, heads this organization. The occasion was the 25th Anniversary of Love Canal. CCCC was one of thirty organizations in western New York to be recognized.
Other awardees included
the Canadian Auto Workers, the Cheektowaga Citizens Coalition, Hickory
Woods Residents for a Clean Environment, the Toxic Tonawanda Coalition,
and Stop Polluting Orleans County.
Each of the thirty groups received a certificate from Lois Gibbs bearing the legend, “25th Anniversary of Love Canal,” for those who used their time, talents, and expertise to improve the quality of life for all communities in Western New York.
Jim Briggs of Paper Allied Industrial Chemical and Energy Workers International Union gave the welcoming address. Keynote speakers were Jim Duncan of the United Auto Workers’ Community Action Program, and Lois Gibbs. Ms. Gibbs spoke in detail of the challenges she faced in alerting people to the hazards of Love Canal and in finally achieving a positive response from local officials and the EPA. A point repeatedly made in the talks was that governments often won't stop things unless pressured to take corrective action.
Environmental Review by Local Governments
by Gary Abraham, Esq., of Allegany
As discussed by Maureen Sheahan-McClure, above, plans for development of still-wooded areas within a few feet of the Allegheny River Valley Trail by Benderson will soon be submitted for review by the Olean Planning Board. Citizens must be allowed to participate, not just watch the review process. This note is an excerpt from a longer article elsewhere on the CCCC website concerned citizens may study to get ready for the upcoming environmental review process.
In New York, planning boards, town boards, city councils and other pubic agencies must comply with strict procedures for the review of environmental impacts of proposed projects they approve. Their approval is an “action” subject to “SEQR” procedures, named after the State Environmental Quality Review Act.
If the decision-making body fails to address in written findings the potential impacts you describe in your written comments, then the SEQR procedure has been violated and can be undone by a court. It is therefore vitally important to participate and give the planning board the benefit of your knowledge.
What’s the “environment”? The answer is important, because many decision-making bodies do not appreciate how broadly SEQR defines the environment. Impacts that must be addressed include “the physical conditions which will be affected by a proposed action, including land, air, water, minerals, flora, fauna, noise, objects of historic or aesthetic significance, existing patterns of population concentration, distribution, or growth, and existing community or neighborhood character.”All these are “environmental impacts,” and encompass three areas: (1) physical impacts, (2) impacts on population patterns, and (3) impacts on community character.
Citizens can affect the decision about whether impacts are “significant,” and therefore justify alteration or denial of the project, by submitting informative public comments. For example, you can show the decision-making body that important cultural, aesthetic, or growth-related impacts have been neglected, requiring changes the sponsor hadn’t planned on. Approval can and should be conditioned on such changes. SEQR means project proposals are not all-or-nothing; they should be negotiated with the community.
The Tentacles of Vermont
by Hal Jacobi of Olean
CCCC is watching the McKean County landfill saga with great interest. It seems the McKean County Solid Waste Authority realized they were in financial difficulty and increased fees at the county landfill from $46 per ton to $86 per ton in February 2003. This was intended to help carry the added cost of new landfill cells which had to meet more stringent environmental regulations.
The reaction by the City of Bradford to this sudden increase of tipping fees was to send their solid waste to a private transfer station in Cattaraugus County. This further aggravated the financial problems of the Authority. Litigation to force Bradford and other McKean County municipalities to use the county landfill followed. The Waste Authority searched for other ways to augment the revenue such as attracting more out-of-county waste haulers in order to increase the waste tonnage. All this was to no avail and to avoid its $13 million bond debt the Authority turned to privatization.
Liberty Waste Services of Pittsburgh and Casella Waste Management of Vermont emerged as bidders on the county landfill and, earlier this month, the county decided to deal with Casella.
When the private waste hauler for Olean, NY went bankrupt, Casella came in, bought it and named it Sanitary Disposal Systems, or SDS. Other acquisitions by Casella include the the Hyland Landfill in Angelica in Allegany Co., the Westfield transfer station in Chautauqua Co., and the IWS Schultz Landfill in Cheektowaga in Erie Co. (A full list of subsidiaries is on our website.) It may not be long before Casella will have a virtual monopoly on the solid waste business in the whole region. Competition in this area will end and Casella may charge what it likes.
County Invests in Transfer Stations
based on reporting by Kevin Burleson in the Salamanca Press, Sept. 5, 2003
The county will implement a $2.5 million equipment upgrade at its eight waste transfer stations, located in Portville, Allegany, Salamanca, Conewango, Dayton, Machias, Five Points and Onoville. The biggest changes will occur in Salamanca and in Portville/Westons Mills where a new waste handling system will be installed.
The new system includes 33 six-cubic-yard recycling containers at a cost of $265,000.$1.4 million is being spent on twelve 50-cubic-yard waste transfer boxes. Another $500,000 will pay for upgrades and improvements at Dayton, Machias and Five Points transfer stations.
Cattaraugus County is joining with Chautauqua County for recycling and refuse education under a three-year program funded by a state grant through the Cornell Cooperative Extension. Cattaraugus County will pay 20 percent of the total cost of the program or about $9,000 in 2003.
A substantial amount of the county’s waste comes from industrial sources, which bypass the county system. These wastes are managed by private haulers and private transfer stations. However, the recycling rate for all county wastes, whether publicly or privately managed, is near 50 percent.
The county recycles glass, newsprint, plastic, scrap metal and tin cans. However, other discards pose a problem. Propane tanks from backyard grills, household batteries and home computers are not being recycled. Only about one percent of household batteries are being recycled–those include the small cadmium hearing aid-types–the rest are being landfilled.
Glass in older computer monitors contains the toxic metal lead, as does the solder inside the computers. Neighboring Erie County only allows residents to dispose of one computer a year and won’t allow any businesses to dispose of them in the public waste stream.
Links to information about alternatives to disposal can be found on CCCC’s website.
A Message From the President
by Scott Merkle of Cuba
CCCC was formed more than a decade ago by Kathy Kellogg, Dale Scurr and Jeannie Law as a grass-roots reaction to the threat of a mega-landfill in Farmersville. Since then, the officers here have changed but our collective reason for being hasn’t. Remembering what happened in Angelica, where a town of 300 voters caved in to threats of litigation from a dump company, our task is to avoid this happening to us. Although it should be obvious, the hillside in Farmersville is an unwise place to situate a landfill, if only because eventually it will taint Olean’s water supply. But we are faced with ugly realities---the DEC says New York needs landfills and Farmersville is ideally obscure and underpopulated.
We must achieve the wisdom to stop fouling our nest. Until we wise up, the state will be licensing landfills and waste corporations will be looking for places like Farmersville.
I'd like to acknowledge the work of Glen
Chambers and Gary Abraham, both past presidents, and thank them for
bringing us this far.
Casella Waste Systems is emerging as rural western New York’s biggest nightmare
McKean County, PA has just decided to invite Casella to take over their landfill. Casella already owns the Hyland Landfill in Angelica, and the largest garbage transfer station in the region, on Homer Street in Olean. Casella is linked to IWS and may be getting ready to take over the Farmersville landfill proposal. Cattaraugus County is already dominated by Maple City Disposal and SDS of Olean, garbage haulers owned by Casella. Together with the company’s Homer Street transfer station, Casella is making our county the hub of a regional waste facility acquisition policy prominently publicized to their stockholders.
None of this would be a problem if Casella were a responsible company, but they’re not. They’ve been fined by the state for dumping recyclables in landfills, and residents here widely report that during curbside pickups SDS routinely tosses their separated recyclables into the garbage. In New England where Casella has succeeded in acquiring most garbage haulers, transfer stations and the landfill that serves a particular region, the cost for garbage pickup in that region doubled.
In addition to predatory monopoly practices, Casella pays fines, but never cleans up their act. The company has paid lots of fines imposed by New England state authorities for mismanagement of landfills and transfer stations and gouging customers with unfair contracts. Small city and town officials repeatedly complain about the strong-arm tactics used by Casella’s subsidiaries to squeeze money out of their budgets. Will our local officials look into Casella’s history, or will we too fall to the fastest growing garbage empire in western New York? Have we, without knowing it, already fallen into Casella’s web?
Concerned Citizens of Cattaraugus County is a nonprofit 501(c)(4) corporation formed in 1991 in New York State. Currently, Scott Merkle of Cuba is CCCC President. The current Board of Directors is composed of Mr. Merkle, Don Farrington of Franklinville, Glen Chambers of Ishua, Gary Green of Farmersville, and Olean residents Hal Jacobi, Marie Johnson, Frank Bohan, Maureen Sheahan-McClure and Jack Blumenthal.
Our goal is to keep the public armed with information
not generally distributed by government officials or private
corporations. Please help us in this effort. Membership dues ($18 family, $11
seniors–hasn’t increased in 12 years) will pay for periodic mailings of
newsletters and notices of public meetings and
hearings, but don’t forget to include your address and contact us if you
ever move. If you want to volunteer, include your phone number in your
Corporations want to trash our land, take
our money out of the area, and force county transfer stations out of
business. We speak for those in the community who believe this is bad
Concerned Citizens of Cattaraugus County, Inc.
P. O. Box 23