The Unhumorous DEC (or “Are you kidding?”)


The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos have been in the news a lot regarding their role with the Brownfield Cleanup Program (BCP) for Tonawanda Coke. In a Letter to the Editor, various media outlets, and a DEC sponsored interview video, they’ve pressed their case in support of tax credits for the site. Let’s look at some of the points they’ve made.


  • I’ve always been bad at math but… The DEC maintains it has a robust brownfields tax credit program and the experience to handle a cleanup of magnitude like Tonawanda Coke. The average size for sites in the brownfield program is 3-5 acres. The approved brownfield portion of the Tonawanda Coke site is 86 acres. I’ll let a third grader figure out how many times larger Tonawanda Coke is compared to the typical site.


  • Math & Ratios… The DEC states the average time for completing remediation is 2.7 years for the typical candidate in the brownfield program. Jon Williams, the new owner of Tonawanda Coke, is on record saying his new property can be done in 4 years. Hum… 2.7 years for 3-5 acres v. 4 years for 86 acres? Kids, help us understand!


  • No Public Hearing … Public hearings are one of the purported aspects for outreach by the DEC. Does anyone remember when the DEC sponsored public hearings concerning the brownfield application for either Tonawanda Coke or the Huntley Power Plant? No, we don’t recall that happening either. In fact, when the community requested a hearing, the DEC refused.


  • False equivalency… The DEC, on occasion, conflates the brownfield program and the New York State Superfund program. They fail to communicate that New York State taxpayers reimburse developers for portions of the cleanup under the brownfield program, while the liable party, in this case, Honeywell Corporation, would of payed under New York State Superfund.


The above are only a few of the reasons why Clean Air is in opposition to the Brownfield program for Tonawanda Coke. We will continue the struggle to make sure the residents of the Town of Tonawanda and taxpayers have a just and safe community.


By Gary Schulenberg, Clean Air member

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