LOCKPORT – Environmental attorney Gary A. Abraham said last week that he will address the Niagara County Legislature on Tuesday in both closed and public sessions, talking about his efforts to prevent the expansion of the CWM Chemical Services hazardous waste landfill in Porter.
The Legislature shelved a resolution last month that would have renewed the county’s $50,000 retainer with Abraham, the Allegany attorney who has been working for the county and the Town of Lewiston against CWM for nearly a decade.
Legislators said at the time that it was Lewiston’s turn, under the agreement between the two governments, to ante up the $50,000 for Abraham’s services.
County Attorney Claude A. Joerg said the county had paid Abraham an extra $18,000 this year, and wanted Lewiston to reimburse the county for that. The town agreed to do so.
All sides seem to believe that the state Department of Environmental Conservation will start the siting process for the expansion soon. The decision is to be made by a siting board to be appointed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.
Abraham was supposed to appear at last Tuesday’s Administration Committee meeting, but he didn’t. Abraham said Legislature Vice Chairman Clyde L. Burmaster, R-Ransomville, told him the meeting was Thursday, and by the time he got accurate schedule information, Abraham had another commitment.
It was unclear whether the Legislature will vote Tuesday to appropriate its next $50,000. It’s not on the printed agenda, and Legislator Anthony J. Nemi, I-Lockport, chairman of the Administration Committee, said he thinks Lewiston’s $50,000 appropriation takes away the urgency of county action.
“I believe it takes us until May before we have to appropriate some money,” Nemi said. “I don’t think we’re going to drag our feet and wait that long.”
But Legislature Chairman William L. Ross, C-Wheatfield, said, “I think as long as all our questions are answered, we could move it to committee of the whole and vote on it.”
“It’s extremely urgent that we put myself and the people working with me back to work,” Abraham said. “The situation is fluid. DEC could be putting out a notice that the (CWM) application is complete any day.”
Although local environmentalists accused the Republican-controlled Legislature of refusing to fund Abraham because of campaign contributions from CWM to the GOP, Ross said the reason for inaction at the Oct. 15 meeting was that many lawmakers don’t know Abraham. Ross estimated that 12 of the current 15 have never met him.
“This would be a great opportunity to meet with him and get the lowdown. In retrospect, we should have done this a couple of times a year,” Ross said.
Nemi said, “People want to know exactly what he’s given us for the last four years. I think the Legislature wants to have an attorney; it’s just that we’re not sure he’s the right one until we hear from him.”
“I’ve been there several times and spoken at public hearings,” Abraham said. “Apparently, those legislators weren’t legislators then, or they didn’t attend.”