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Lead Agency Dispute: City of Beacon Planning Board v. Zoning Board v. Dutchess Co v. DEC

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

PROJECT: Medical Waste Incinerator, City of Beacon, Dutchess County

DISPUTING AGENCIES: City of Beacon Planning Board
City of Beacon Zoning Board of Appeals
Dutchess County Resource Recovery Agency
NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation

This decision to designate the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) as the lead agency for the 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. My reasons are that the potential environmental impacts which may result from this project are predominantly of regional importance and that the broadest powers for investigation of the potential impacts lie with DEC.

This lead agency dispute involves the proposed construction and operation of an incinerator for medical wastes. The incinerator will be constructed within an existing building in the Southern Dutchess Industrial Park in the City of Beacon, Dutchess County. Medical wastes will be packaged in plastic lined, leakproof containers and delivered to the site by tractor trailers. Between six and 12 tractor trailer loads per day are anticipated. The applicant, Hudson Valley Environmental, Incorporated of Greenwich, Connecticut, anticipates that this incinerator will service clients from New York, Bronx, Kings, Queens, Richmond, Nassau, Suffolk, Putnam, Westchester, Dutchess, Rockland, Orange and Sullivan Counties.

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 City of Beacon has identified as a major issue the compatibility of the project with surrounding land uses. In addition, several other land use related issues have been raised including: the potential for localized traffic impacts from delivery of the wastes; concerns about emergency access; and the potential for impact to a proposed historic district. The City has also identified the capacities of the existing water supply system and sewage treatment plant as issues of concern. The potential impact of the facility's operation on air quality is acknowledged by the City of Beacon as being a regional concern. The Region 3 office of the DEC noted that because a regional market is being served by the proposed facility the impacts from waste transportation will be of greater than local concern.

Medical wastes to be incinerated at the proposed facility will be collected from a 13 county service area. These wastes are presently incinerated at several different locations. This proposed facility could potentially result in the closure of some of these facilities with a beneficial impact on regional air quality. The potential affect this proposed facility will have on other existing facilities and the impacts from transporting these wastes are clearly of regional concern. The fact that the facility will be operated in an existing building at an established industrial site near major non-local transportation routes must also be considered.

Regarding the second criterion, the project as proposed will require several DEC permits. The transportation of the wastes will be regulated under 6NYCRR 364. Permits to construct and operate the facility will be issued under 6NYCRRR 201 and 360. The City of Beacon must give site plan approval for the facility. Under site plan the City Planning Board must consider: the compatibility of the proposed use with the surrounding area; the availability of adequate sewer and water; and the adequacy of traffic access. 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 and transport of medical wastes. In addition, the degree of discretion by the City with respect to the compatibility of the proposed facility with the surrounding land uses appears to be greatly limited because of the fact that the facility will be located within an existing structure at a site that is currently zoned for heavy industry.

Regarding the third criterion, the City of Beacon Planning Board possesses the technical staff and expertise to assess the local land use issues and has the ability to hire consultants to assist in the review. However, the DEC Region 3 office, as the agency with statutory responsibility to administer the air and solid waste programs, has the necessary technical expertise to assess the potential regional impacts from operation of the proposed project. DEC staff also possess the expertise to assess the potential for impact to the local water and sewage systems.

I conclude, based on all the facts presented, that the Department of Environmental Conservation best serves the function of lead agency for conduct of review under SEQR for the construction and operation of a medical waste incinerator proposed by Hudson Valley Environmental, Inc. in the City of Beacon because the primary concerns are regional in nature and their assessment falls primarily within the regulatory powers of the DEC.

This decision does not in any manner limit the jurisdiction of any of the involved agencies or minimize their responsibilities to review this entire proposed action and to assist the DEC in the completion of the environmental review process. In their submittal, DEC Region 3 staff indicated that an environmental impact statement (EIS) should be prepared to assess the impacts from this proposal. It is my hope that the City of Beacon Planning Board, as an involved agency, will actively participate in the scoping for the EIS and provide DEC with the necessary support to see that local concerns are adequately addressed.

Thomas C. Jorling Commissioner
Dated: March 17, 1989
Albany, New York

Distribution of Copies:

  • Harry Lynch, Chairman, City of Beacon Planning Board
    Laura Zeisel, Esq., Counsel, City of Beacon Planning Board
    Ralph Manna, Regional Permit Administrator, DEC Region 3
    James Galtthaar, Esq., Counsel, Hudson Valley Environmental, Inc.
    Hudson Valley Environmental, Inc.
    Richard Murphy, Dutchess County Legislature
    Ann Cypher

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation:

  • T. Jorling
    L. Marsh
    M. Gerstman
    G. Bowers
    J. Jensen
    F. Howell
    L. Biegel (Region 3)

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