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August 16, 2007

Governor vetoes legislation aimed at sharply limiting hazardous-waste facilities

In a victory for many New York State businesses, Governor Eliot Spitzer has vetoed a bill that would have effectively closed the state's only commercial hazardous waste landfill and significantly added to the cost of industrial operations and hazardous-waste remediation in New York State.

"This bill is overly broad and may actually have a negative impact on the environment," Governor Spitzer said in his veto message. He added that the bill would significantly increase the cost of disposing of contaminated soils and other substances and, thus, decrease the number of brownfields being remediated.

The Council had strongly opposed the legislation (A248-B/DelMonte) and asked the Governor to reject the proposal, which was intended to curb the expansion of the state's only permitted commercial hazardous waste landfill in Niagara County.

Business Council President Kenneth Adams applauded the Governor's veto.

"Hazardous wastes are an unavoidable by-product of our modern economy. We can't simply export the issue," Adams said.

Adams noted that the bill would have increased costs for businesses by increasing costs for waste disposal while undermining serious efforts to clean hazardous waste sites in the state.

To earn a permit to operate, waste landfills already must meet stringent requirements for pretreatment of hazardous wastes before disposal, Adams noted. They also must meet stringent design and operation standards for landfills, so they already represent an environmentally safe waste management option.

In urging a veto, the Council argued that the legislation to eliminate in-state disposal capacity would likely intensify national pressure for restrictions on interstate shipments of waste. If other states erect barriers or increase fees on interstate waste shipments, New York would soon face significant capacity shortfalls and increased costs.

“Essentially, [the bill] would have closed the state's only permitted hazardous waste disposal facility and we would have been left having to send waste to other states,” Judith Enck, the state's deputy secretary for the environment, told the Lockport Union-Sun & Journal. “We didn't think closing the one and only facility at this time would be particularly sensible.”

The state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) had also urged a veto, saying "this bill is too broad an instrument and is not focused on the real threats to the Great Lakes watershed."