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Clinton County v. Schuyler Falls

Lead Agency Dispute

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
Commissioner's Determination of Lead Agency
under Article 8 of the
Environmental Conservation Law

PROJECT: Proposed Expansion of the Clinton County Landfill in the Town of Schuyler Falls, Clinton County

DISPUTING AGENCIES: Clinton County Legislature and the Town of Schuyler Falls Zoning Board of Appeals

This decision to designate the Clinton County Legislature as lead agency for the conduct of the environmental review under the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) is made pursuant to Article 8 of the Environmental Conservation Law (ECL) and 6 NYCRR Part 617. This decision is based on my finding that the proposed expansion of the Clinton County Landfill and its subsequent operation will impact all of the municipalities in the solid waste management planning unit and that the Clinton County Legislature has the broadest governmental powers for the investigation of the impacts of the proposed action.

The proposed project is the application of Casella Waste Systems, Inc. and New England Waste Services of N.Y., Inc. to revise the existing development plan and associated lease with Clinton County to accommodate an expansion of the existing landfill. The proposed area for the expansion is a 101-acre parcel currently owned by the New York State Electric & Gas Corporation on the north side of Sand Road in Clinton County.

The Clinton County Legislature will be required to consider the proposed expansion in its role in solid waste management planning for the County and modify the plan if required, and the County Legislature would be required to amend the existing lease for the management and operation of the landfill between Casella Waste Systems and Clinton County. The proposed expansion may require issuance of a use variance from the Town of Schuyler Falls Zoning Board of Appeals.

Claims regarding the presence or absence of jurisdiction have been raised by both disputing agencies as a challenge to each agency's ability to qualify as an involved agency as that term is defined in 6 NYCRR 617.2(s). The role of lead agency may be assumed only by an involved agency. In practice, an agency is usually treated as an involved agency unless it can be shown with reasonable certainty that it has no jurisdiction in the particular action. In this proceeding, it can be reasonably argued that both agencies may have a jurisdictional role in this action. Therefore, I choose to review the project and resolve the petition on its merits.

In resolving a lead agency dispute, I am guided by the three criteria listed in order of importance in paragraph 6 NYCRR Part 617.6(b)(5)(v). These are: (1) whether the anticipated impacts of the action being considered are primarily of statewide, regional or local significance (i.e., if such impacts are of primarily local signifi6ance, all other considerations being equal, the local agency involved will be lead agency); (2) which agency has the broadest governmental powers for investigation of the impacts of the proposed action; and (3) which agency has the greatest capability for providing the most thorough environmental assessment of the proposed action.

The first criterion relates to whether the anticipated impacts are primarily of statewide, regional or local significance. The proposed project is the expansion of an existing landfill that provides solid waste disposal services for the entire county. The Clinton County Solid Waste Management Plan that was prepared by the Clinton County Legislature in 1991 established the County's plans for long-term solid waste disposal in the County. The plan identified that continued reliance on a landfill is the preferred disposal method for the County. The decisions made in the process of expanding the existing Schuyler Falls landfill have the potential to impact each municipality in the planning unit. I acknowledge that the Town of Schuyler Falls as the location for the facility will experience site-specific impacts associated with the construction and operation of a landfill. However, the impacts related to the landfill and its subsequent operation will affect all communities and citizens in the larger planning unit area. Therefore, the regional nature of solid waste management outweighs the local nature of the impacts.

The next criterion addresses the breadth of jurisdiction. Consideration of this criterion also reveals a distinction between the disputing agencies. The Clinton County Legislature is the agency responsible for solid waste management planning for the entire County. In reviewing the application by Casella Waste Systems, Inc. to expand the existing Clinton County landfill, the Clinton County Legislature will have to consider how this expansion will meet the County's need for management of its solid waste and determine if the existing solid waste management plan for the County must be amended. In addition, the Clinton County Legislature will also have to consider if any revisions to the existing management contract with Casella Waste Systems, Inc. will be necessary. The Clinton County Legislature, in its review of the proposed expansion and subsequent management, will have to consider all facets of the action and has the broad authority for mitigating any identified impacts. The Town of Schuyler Falls Zoning Board of Appeals may have to approve a special use permit to allow the expansion. This approval enables a use of land which, in concept, is allowed under the existing zoning. However, it does not provide broad authority over the primary impacts of concern related to the construction and operation of the facility. Therefore, I find that the jurisdiction of the Clinton County Legislature provides broader authority to review and provide mitigation for the anticipated impacts from this proposal.

The third criterion relates to the capacity of an agency to provide for a thorough environmental assessment. Given that the first and second criteria have indicated a preference for the Clinton County Legislature, consideration of the third criterion is not critical. Both parties to this dispute possess the necessary staff or the ability to obtain the assistance of consultants to undertake an adequate environmental review for the proposed action.

I conclude, based on the facts presented, that the Clinton County Legislature should be lead agency for the conduct of the environmental review of the application for the expansion of the Clinton County landfill due to the regional nature of the impacts and the broad scope of authority afforded to the Clinton County Legislature in its role as the agency responsible for solid waste management planning for the entire County.

This decision in no way limits the jurisdiction or responsibility of the Town of Schuyler Falls. The Clinton County Legislature has indicated that a draft environmental impact statement will be prepared to assess the potential impacts from the proposed expansion. I urge the Town of Schuyler Falls to actively participate in the environmental review so that the record developed by the Clinton County Legislature will adequately satisfy their needs if approvals are needed from the Town.

/s/
John P. Cahill, Commissioner Dated: 12/13/99
Albany, New York

Disputing Agencies/Applicant:

  • Donald Garrant, Chairman, Clinton County Legislature
    William Favreau, Esq., O'Connell and Aronowitz, Counsel, Clinton County Legislature
    Michael Reil, Chairman, Zoning Board of Appeals, Town of Schuyler Falls
    Michael Moore, Young Somer LLC, Special Counsel, Town of Schuyler Falls ZBA
    Thomas West, Esq., Counsel, Casella Waste Systems, Inc.

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation:

  • Stuart Buchanan, Regional Director, DEC Region 5
    Richard Wild, Regional Permit Administrator, DEC Region 5
    Victor Gallo
    Jack Nasca
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