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Questions about Falls garbage-to-energy plan

By Charlie Specht

Niagara Falls officials are excited about Covanta Niagara's new plan to haul in New York City's trash for burning at its Falls industrial plant.

But environmental advocates say more questions need to be answered before Covanta receives nearly $8 million in county tax breaks for the project.

A public hearing on the tax breaks will be held at 3:45 p.m. today in Room 17 of Niagara Falls City Hall, 745 Main St.

In attendance will be Amy Witryol, the two-time candidate for state senate who has raised concerns about the garbage-burning project.

Witryol says there has been a "wholesale lack of information" about the project, specifically about plans for a rail service expansion and a new 190-foot smokestack to be built along the city's industrial row. 

She also questions why the city has not called for a host agreement that would require local approval of any changes to the existing plans, which she views as a key stipulation for a city with a sad environmental legacy.

Covanta says it plans to ship in 300,000 tons of New York City garbage to be burned for usage by the new Greenpac paper mill and other industries.

The $30 million expansion project will create 23 new jobs, company officials say, and retain 86 current jobs, for a total community benefit of more than $37 million.

Witryol, though, questions the relevancy of those job-retention figures, especially in light of the company's recent $165 million debt refinancing through an IDA-approved bond issue.

She believes the tax breaks, instead of retaining and creating jobs, will instead "perpetuate a type of disposal that is not one of those preferred by state and federal regulators, and not even our own locality."

Company officials no doubt disagree. You can have your say later today.  

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