Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin USA TODAY NETWORK
May 9, 2020, Front Page
By Jeff Platsky
Endicott village manager and attorney will determine if a petition can go forward — and would likely spell doom for the recycling plant. Here’s why.
Following a four-and-a-half-hour meeting, the board voted 3-2 to give the go-ahead to an international consortium to establish a recycling operation modeled after a process developed in South Korea. The filing of the new law will be delayed, however, until a ruling on the validity of the effort by detractors to turn aside the law is decided.
In a last-minute strategy, opponents filed a protest petition that, if found to be valid, would require the approval of four trustees, which would present a significant obstacle because two of the five trustees clearly oppose the project. For the petition to be valid, it would require 20% of property owners within the village’s industrial zone and within 100 feet of the project to sign on.
The village will withhold filing the law with the state until the village manager and the village attorney determine if the petition is legitimate.
An attempt by Trustee Ted Warner to delay the vote and to hold a public meeting before approval failed by the same 3-2 margin.
“People are absolutely livid over this thing,” Warner said.
Voting for the zoning law were trustees Cheryl Chapman, Eileen Konecny and Mayor Linda Jackson. Warner was joined by Patrick Dorner in opposing the initiative.
Because of coronavirus-related physical distancing restrictions, the meeting was conducted virtually through the Zoom application with 290 people signing in at the peak. By the close of the meeting, the audience dropped to about 180 participants.
Local approval comes a little more than six weeks after the state Department of Environmental Conservation granted SungEel MCC Americas an “Air State Facility Permit,” stating “the facility is not projected to be a major source of regulated air pollutants.”
While environmental regulators noted there will be emissions from the process, it said “compliance with the department’s regulations and policy are designed to reduce risks to acceptable levels established to be protective of human health and safety, and the environment.”
Opponents, however, challenged the DEC determination, alleging the operation will be a source of toxic emissions near a residential area and within close proximity of a ball field.
They contend the operation is out of character with the neighborhood and poses a substantial health hazard to the village.
“They will be under a microscope,” Chapman said of Sungeel, adding that the DEC will closely monitor operations. “I believe this will be safe and this will be a state-of-the-art company.”
However, Dorner expressed serious reservations, questioning the credibility of company data used to review the project. He said toxins released by the company will result in the “further poisoning of the residents of Endicott,” making reference to a toxic plume originating to IBM operations at its sprawling campus that required extensive mitigation. IBM sold the former microelectronic operation and building in 2002.
“I really think this company is going to work out for us,” Jackson said of Sungeel.
A four-hour virtual public hearing Monday night attracted more than 240 participants, with 58 selecting to speak on the issue. All but one opposed the plant, voicing environmental impact concerns.
The proposed lithium-ion battery recycling facility will be at 801 Clark St. in the former IBM Building 259, on the northeast corner of Robble Avenue and Clark Street on the Huron Campus.
SungEel MCC Americas, a partnership between South Korean recycling company SungEel HiTech and White Plains-based e-recycler and broker Metallica Commodities Corp., will invest $11 million at the former IBM Corp. site to recycle 3,000 to 5,000 tons of spent lithium-ion batteries annually.
Incentives for the project include a $750,000 grant for monitoring and evaluation efforts at the new facility, and a $1 million tax credit.
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