Upstate landfill is first property targeted under “green amendment”

Environmental group sues to compel closure of Waste Management property outside Rochester

Tri-State /
Feb.February 02, 2022 02:24 PM

Waste Management CEO James Fish with High Acres landfill (Waste Management, Google Maps)

Weeks after taking effect, an amendment to New York’s constitution guaranteeing citizens the right to “clean air and water, and a healthful environment” is the basis for a lawsuit targeting one particularly smelly property upstate.

The environmental group Fresh Air for the Eastside last week sued Waste Management and the state Department of Environmental Conservation to force the closure of a 300-acre landfill split across Perinton and Macedon, two suburbs of Rochester, the Times Union reported.

New York City is also named in the suit, believed to be the first to cite the amendment, which voters overwhelmingly passed in November. The High Acres landfill gets 90 percent of its waste from New York City, according to the lawsuit.

Neighbors have complained for years about odors and methane leaks from the landfill, according to the Times Union. An attorney representing the group claimed Waste Management has exploited a loophole in state regulations that requires landfills to be covered on top, but not the sides, allowing for the massive mound’s continued expansion.

Fresh Air has already sued in state and federal court, but resolutions to those cases have been slow in coming. The federal case is still in discovery, despite being filed two years ago, according to the Times Union. A class-action lawsuit brought on behalf of nearby residents in 2018 was settled in 2020.

“Hopefully it will make it go a little faster,” Linda Shaw, the attorney representing Fresh Air in the new lawsuit, said of the so-called “green amendment.”

Waste Management said in a statement that it was “committed to addressing any open issues and to bring these cases to a satisfactory conclusion for all interested parties.” It also mentioned the two towns hosting the landfill recently approved five-year operating permits for the site.

More lawsuits could be coming down the trash chute. Shaw told the Times Union that 27 other landfills in the state are similar to High Acres. One of business interests’ concerns about the amendment was that it would trigger litigation, although similar constitutional changes in other states have not led to a slew of lawsuits.

[Times Union] — Holden Walter-Warner





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