ALBANY: The proposed landfill expansion in the Albany Pine
Bush could be used by the new administration in the State
of New York as a catalyst for change in solid waste policy
in the state.
Over the past year, Save the Pine Bush has had many speakers
discussing the solid waste issue. We had some speakers that
were not popular with environmentalists who spoke about Waste-to-Energy.
It was after John Waffenschmidt, Vice-President of Business
Development from Covanta Energy, spoke at our November dinner,
that I became completely, totally convinced that the only solution
to solid waste management is reduction, reuse and recycling.
Reduction, reuse and recycling is the only solution that Save
the Pine Bush endorses. After listening to Mr. Waffenschmidt,
I learned that Waste-to-Energy or incineration is too polluting
and too costly to even consider.
But, this is the problem: the solid waste management system
in New York is set up to encourage corporations and municipalities
to take as much garbage as possible in order to profit from
their landfills (or WTE facilities). Reduction, reuse and recycling
cannot be instituted with the current policy because it is
more profitable to fill landfills and burn plants with garbage.
In the Pine Bush in Albany, we have all of the elements of
the problem of solid waste on a collision course.
1) The landfill is located in an ecologically unique area
- the Pine Bush. The Pine Bush a rare ecosystem, some say the
best example of an inland pine barrens ecosystem in the world.
Not only does the public know that a landfill does not belong
in the Pine Bush, almost no one supports expanding the landfill.
2) The City of Albany is completely addicted to garbage.
If Albany does not get its fix, the fiscal consequences to
the City will be devastating. The dump generates $13 million
a year for the City, nearly 10% of the City's budget. Tom Nitido,
the Comptroller for the City, has told me the City's taxes
could rise 27% to 35%, if the City can't get its landfill expansion.
A fiscal disaster in the making.
3) The State of New York dumps its garbage in the Pine Bush
landfill. As far as we know, all of the solid waste generated
by the state government in Albany goes into the Rapp Road landfill.
4) The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation does
not assist municipalities with their solid waste issues. The
only solutions offered by DEC are landfills and WTE facilities.
Fortunately, as far as we know, DEC has not granted a permit
for a new WTE facility since 1992 (and I hope they never grant
another!). However, DEC has only granted two permits to operate
new landfills in the state in the past ten years. The only
solution to solid waste is DEC seems to support these days
is permits for expansions of already existing landfills. This
does not bode well for the Pine Bush. The Pataki administration
has left DEC with a bankrupt and unsustainable solid waste
5) Huge, national corportations have gotten into the garbage
business and are reaping enormous profits at the expense of
the health of citizens and the environment. The Pataki administration’s
solution to solid waste was the free market for big corporations.
A ‘free’ market is not one that will focus on the
environmentally responsible solution - reduction, reuse, and
6) The stench of the Rapp Road landfill can be smelled over
a large distance. The neighbors are suffering. No one knows
what is in these air emissions, or whether the stench causes
health problems. The neighbors do know that they cannot live
with the stink any longer. In the past six weeks, over 250
people attended the DEC scoping hearing on the proposed expansion,
and over 300 people attended a meeting on the landfill sponsored
by Save the Pine Bush. The opposition of the public to the
landfill expansion is overwhelming and unprecedented (in all
my years of advocacy for the Pine Bush, I have never seen such
opposition or anger). The neighbors are furious, and they should
be. No one should have to live with such a stench. The Albany
City officials compound the anger by ignoring the complaints
of the neighbors, because most of people who smell the landfill
do not live in the City.
With the fragility of the Pine Bush, the fiscal crisis of
the City, the greed of the corporations, the lack of direction
from DEC, and the rage of the citizens, I predict we are about
to have a major explosion over garbage, and its not going to
On the other hand, this impending collision could become
the catalyst for New York State changing direction on solid
waste. After all, the state dumps its garbage here too!
1) DEC could be directed to research and write a rational
solid waste policy of reduction, reuse and recycling with the
ultimate goal of zero waste.
2) The State could assist the City of Albany with its garbage
addiction, and assist the City financially while the City gradually
reduces its dependence on garbage revenue.
3) Real health studies could be done for the neighbors of
the landfill to determine the health risks to neighbors and
taking steps to eliminate these risks.
4) The State could honor the 1990 promise of former DEC Commissioner
Jorling who said that he could not envision a need for another
landfill in the Pine Bush.
5) If the State can succeed in developing a rational solid
waste policy for its own garbage here in the Capital, then
this policy could be adopted everywhere in New York.
No one wants a landfill built in their community. All communities
should take responsiblity for their own solid waste. Reduction,
reuse, recycling (and don’t forget composting) is the
solution to solid waste. Why bury valuable resourses, when
items can be reused or recycled?