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Trash Incinerator Opponents Increase Pressure On New York Lawmakers

ROCHESTER, NY (WXXI) - Opponents of a proposed Finger Lakes waste-to-energy facility are increasing pressure on the New York State Legislature to pass legislation to ban the operation before the end of the legislative session next week.

"In Albany time we have all the time in the world, but with each passing day, the urgency increases,” said Will Ouweleen, owner of O-Neh-Da and Eagle Crest Vineyards in Conesus. “If the bill is not passed, there is going to be a complete outcry in the Finger Lakes because this project is completely inappropriate to site in the Finger Lakes area."

Ouweleen is one of numerous business owners, elected officials, and residents fighting to prevent Rochester based Circular enerG from building a massive trash incinerator near Seneca Lake in Romulus.  The company says the incinerator would help the environment by creating clean energy through the burning of trash that otherwise would be landfilled.  Opponents say the constant flow of trash-laden trucks and trains through the region would taint Finger Lakes wine and tourism industries and the region’s quality of life.

Schuyler County this week became the latest community to officially oppose the project.

Ouweleen says just the prospect of an incinerator in the Finger Lakes has changed the relationship between wineries and their potential financers.

"I've heard from several wineries that bankers are asking them about what's going to happen with the Finger Lakes going forward in terms of the brand if we keep receiving more and more trash."

There is bipartisan support for the bills, but they have not made it to the floor for a vote in the Assemblyor Senate.

Ouweleen is considering a trip to Albany Thursday. He says he's been to the state capitol multiple times to voice his opposition to the project.

"It's really taxing on all of us. We're not lobbyists; we're not politicians. We're independent entrepreneurs, farmers, business owners. We really don't have the bandwidth to be driving to Albany every few weeks and working to defend our way of life. We need to be growing what's already working, not defending what we worked so hard to grow."

He says vintners are in this battle for the long haul, but they would rather get back to growing grapes.

Meanwhile, Circular enerG has filed a lawsuit against the Town of Romulus and a resident over changes made to the town’s zoning code to permit incinerators like the one it proposes.  The company claims that the move violated state law.