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Lead Agency Dispute: Town of Ramapo Planning Board v. Town of Ramapo

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

PROJECT: Tellus Cogeneration Facility, Town of Ramapo, Rockland County


  • Town of Ramapo Planning Board
    Town of Ramapo Zoning Board of Appeals
    Town of Ramapo Department of Public Works
    New York State Dept. of Environmental Conservation

This decision to designate the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) as the lead agency for conduct of an environmental review under the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) process is made pursuant to Article 8 of the Environmental Conservation Law and 6NYCRR Part 617, the statewide regulations governing SEQR. My rationale is that the potential environmental impacts which may result from this project are predominantly of regional and statewide significance and that the broadest powers for investigation of the potential impacts of this project lie with DEC.

This lead agency dispute involves the proposed development of an 8OMW gas-fired cogeneration facility and soil conditioner manufacturing plant about 0.8 miles northeast of the hamlet of Ramapo in the Town of Ramapo, Rockland County. Steam produced from the cogeneration process would be used in the production of soil conditioner from various sludge materials collected from industrial and wastewater treatment processes. The applicant, Tellus Incorporated, anticipates collecting, transporting and drying sanitary sludge and either selling this product as a soil conditioner or landfilling the dried sludge when customers are not available. The electricity produced would be sold to the local utility system.

In resolving a dispute about lead agency, I am guided by the three criteria listed in order of importance in 6NYCRR Section 617.6(e)(5). These are: whether the anticipated impacts are primarily of local, regional or statewide significance; which agency has the broadest powers for investigation of potential impacts; and which agency has the greatest ability to provide a thorough environmental assessment of the proposed action.

In consideration of the first criterion, the Town of Ramapo has cited potential environmental impacts from the project including those related to air and water quality, solid waste management, traffic and transportation and noise. The Town maintains that these environmental issues are primarily of local significance.

While DEC concurred that there will be local effects, it also pointed out several important considerations which are of greater than local concern. These include the regional aspects of the plant's contribution to air pollution in the Hudson Valley, the regional and state implications of the transport of both unprocessed and processed sludge, state concerns for secure disposal of processed sludge and other process wastes, and the statewide considerations (in conjunction with the Public Service Commission) related to the construction and interconnection of required gas and electric transmission lines. The proximity of the proposed facility to Harriman State Park and to sections of the Ramapo River classified as "Recreational" under the state Wild, Scenic and Recreational River program are additional factors of state concern.

As noted above, there are important statewide and regional impacts, particularly those relating to air emissions and transportation, which cannot be resolved or mitigated at local level, and these are at least as significant as the impacts of local concern.

Regarding the second criterion, the project, as proposed, will require numerous permits from the Department of Environmental Conservation including those related to air emission, to the transport, spreading or landfilling of sludge and to point source wastewater discharges. The Town of Ramapo must give site plan approval and variances for the facility. The Ramapo Planning Board must consider appropriate conditions which should be applied to its site plan approval and also must consider the interests of the Town Zoning Board of Appeals, should a variance be needed. However, the extent of state approvals through DEC is much greater and clearly will require much more extensive investigation using DEC staff expertise in order to set appropriate conditions with respect to air emissions, water discharges and solid and hazardous waste management. In particular, matters relating to regional air standards and to transport and disposal of sludge are beyond the authority of a local agency to control.

Regarding the third criterion, DEC has the only existing staff resources capable of dealing with those aspects of the proposed cogeneration/soil conditioner plant impacts which are of greater than local concern. These staff resources have already been assigned to evaluate the impacts of several other proposed Tellus facilities located statewide.

I therefore conclude, based on all facts presented, that the Department of Environmental Conservation best serves the function of lead agency for conduct of review under SEQR for the cogeneration/soil conditioner plant proposed by Tellus Incorporated for construction and operation in the Town of Ramapo because the project includes major environmental concerns of regional and state interest and because DEC has the best capability to investigate all aspects of environmental concern for this project, both state and local. DEC should work closely with the Town of Ramapo in the conduct of its review, and with all other involved agencies.

This decision does not in any manner limit the jurisdictions of any of the involved agencies or minimize their responsibilities to review this entire proposed action and to assist the staff of DEC in the completion of the environmental review process is.

Thomas C. Jorling, Commissioner
Dated: Jan. 30, 1989
Albany, New York

Distribution of Copies:

  • John A. Keough, Administrative Assistant, Ramapo Boards & Commissions
    John M. Cianci, Project Manager, DEC Bureau of Energy
    Ralph Manna, Regional Permit Administrator, DEC Region 3
    Thomas Micelli, Associate Engineer, Rockland Co. Health Department
    William Chase, Commissioner, Rockland Co. Planning Department
    Diana Rivet, Esq., Counsel, Rockland Co. IDA
    Charles Stewart, P.E., Executive Director, Rockland Co. Sewer District #1
    Richard A. Cohen, Chief Engineer, Rockland Co. Drainage Agency
    Edward Cassidy, Director of Environmental Control, Town of Ramapo
    Christian Hosford, P.E., V.P. of Engineering, Tellus, Inc.
    John J. Kelliher, Secretary, NYS Public Service Commission

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation:

  • T. Jorling
    L. Marsh
    M. Gerstman (Legal Affairs)
    G. Bowers (Legal Affairs)
    K. Silliman (Legal Affairs)
    J. Jensen/F. Howell (DRA)
    R. Harvey (Bureau of Energy)
    P. Keller (Region 3) FWH:jif

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