January 3, 2014
Public comment sought on ash for trash deal
Residents have until Jan. 31 to weigh in on the proposal
As Cortland County takes the lead on the proposed ash for trash deal with Onondaga County, the first step of the process is playing out with a public comment period open until Jan. 31.
The public can give its input on the proposed deal to accept Onondaga County incinerator ash in return for sending Cortland County trash to be incinerated. Cortland County would have to build a transfer station to be operational by May 2015, as part of the plan.
Comments are being accepted in writing at the County Legislature Clerk’s Office in the County Office Building.
Officials from both counties have hailed the deal as a profitable one, potentially making each side about $1 million annually.
The scoping period, as it is called, allows the public to give its feedback on the plan, suggesting issues to examine beyond what is outlined in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement.
The impact document will examine all the impacts of building the transfer station and accepting ash at the landfill, as well as alternatives to the plan.
Attorney Patrick Snyder, who is guiding Cortland County through the process of environmental review, said the comments on the document could range from the question of whether the ash is hazardous, to suggestions for alternatives such as gassification.
“So basically every aspect of the DEIS can be commented on,” said Snyder, adding that every indication from the state Department of Environmental Conservation is that the ash is not hazardous.
Once the comment period ends, the county’s Syracuse-based consultant firm Barton & Loguidice will review them and incorporate the concerns into the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, said Snyder. There would ultimately be a Legislative vote on accepting the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, perhaps in April or May, and then another public comment period on that document as well as a date set for a public hearing, he said.
Then the consultants will begin writing the final Environmental Impact Statement, which will determine whether the project should proceed. Snyder expected a vote on the future of the project to come perhaps in the fall of 2014.
Although the county is up against a May 2015 deadline to have the transfer station built, Snyder said that deadline might move if needed, since it would not be ideal to build the transfer station in the winter.
Neither side has to enter a binding agreement until the Environmental Impact Statement is completed, Snyder said. This operational agreement would lay out the terms of the project, each side’s duties and responsibilities and define the specifics of the project such as tipping fees.
“I think we can have an agreement in principle at any time but nothing that commits either agency to going forward with the project until the EIS process is complete,” he said.
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