Back to Gary A. Abraham, Esq.
updated 7/29/2018

Ontario County Landfill

On May 15, 2018, the Second Circuit dismissed a petition by Finger Lakes Zero Waste Coalition seeking to compel the U.S. EPA to reopen or object to a NYSDEC Title V air permit, based on operation of a gas-to-energy plant under common control with the Ontario County Landfill (Case 16-3420). NYSDEC treated the energy plant as a separate source of emissions even though the plant is located within the landfill property and serves exclusively to burn landfill gas and thereby bring the landfill unto compliance with the Clean Air Act. This allows both the landfill and the energy to avoid emission controls that would apply if the combined emissions were considered a single source.

Finger Lakes Zero Waste Coalition has been the watchdog for this landfill for many years. The organization has made valient efforts to get the ear of Ontario County Board of Supervisors for efforts to get the County to move the percentage of waste in the county it recycles above the single digits. Although required by law since 1992 to implement aggressive recycling programs, NYSDEC allowed twenty years to go by before making a local solid waste management plan a condition to consideration of an expansion to the county landfill. It appears the agency waited too long, because by then the County had tied itself by contract to Casella Waste Systems, which runs the landfill and the county's recycling operations for profit. The size of the landfill has exceeded by multiples anything needed by the County for its own waste. The landfill now creates toxic emissions beyond the capacity of an onsite landfill gas-to-energy plant. The plant is supposed to combust the emissions at high enough temperatures to chemically destory the toxics, but in reality substantial excess emissions escape uncontrolled into the community.

After a petition to urging NYSDEC to apply its policy limiting the size of landfills failed, FLZWC petitioned EPA to object to the gas-to-energy plant's air permit. The air permit should be based on the landfill and the gas-to-energy plant as a single source of air pollution since they operate interdependently; one cannot operate without the other. EPA granted FLZWC's petition and asked NYSDEC to justify why it treats the two facilities as separate sources, avoiding full regulation. NYSDEC provided in substance the same rationale found in its initial respnse to FLZWC's comments, so FLZWC brought its case to the federal 2nd Circuit Court of Apppeals.

FLZWC v. U.S. EPA (in the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals)

FLZWC Initial Brief (Feb. 21, 2017)

FLZWC Petition to NYSDEC (sizing of the landfill)

DEC Commissioner's Decision on Appeal (November 19, 2015)

FLZWC Appeal of ALJ Issues Ruling (May 27, 2015)

ALJ Issues Ruling (May 6, 2015)

Petition for Party Status, submitted to NYSDEC (February 25, 2015)

Exhibit A, Order, Finger Lakes Zero Waste Coalition v. McCarthy, Index No. 14-CV-6542 (W.D.N.Y. February 4, 2015) (Siracusa, J.)

Exhibit B, NYSDEC Region 3 Staff Comments, re: Sullivan County Landfill Phase II Expansion, November 19, 2004

Exhibit C, Ontario County, Operation, Management and Lease Agreement, dated November 25, 2003

Exhibit D, Finger Lakes Zero Waste Coalition, by Douglas Knipple, President, Letter to Ontario County Board of supervisors, Environmental Quality Committee, dated November 30, 2011

Exhibit E, Finger Lakes Zero Waste Coalition, by Douglas Knipple, President, Letter to David Vitale, Director, Bureau of Permitting and Planning, NYSDEC, dated April 23, 2012

Amended Supplemental Petition on Noise Issues (March 10, 2015)

No good deed goes unpunished; once the petition was filed, Casella and County moved to preclude its issues:

Motion to Preclude FLZWC's Issues (Memorandum of Law), dated February 27, 2015

Attorney Aff. (T. West), with 20 Exhibits, dated February 27, 2015 (13.5 MB)

And FLZWC responded as follows:

Response (Memorandum of Law), dated March 4, 2015
    Exhibit A, SCS, Landfill Gas Collection System Report, dated April 17, 2014
    Exhibit B, SCS, Landfill Surface (Methane) Scan Report, dated October 22, 2014