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A group of emergency officials has endorsed a proposed tire-burning energy plant in Lackawanna if it would mean the elimination of tire dumps in the area.

The fire hazard posed by tire dumps has reached "crisis levels," and the proposed Oxford Energy plant would present a means for safe disposal of old tires, according to the Emergency Management Directors Association of Western New York.

The group, which recently issued its endorsement, consists of the emergency services directors of 10 counties in the western part of the state, plus those of the Cities of Lackawanna, Buffalo and North Tonawanda.

According to Lewis P. Schmidt, president of the association and disaster coordinator for Genesee County, the endorsement would depend on Oxford's depleting piles of tires in a specified period.

He said the state Department of Environmental Conservation should make such a provision a condition of approving the facility.

A DEC spokesman said Monday that dealing with tire dumps is a "definite interest" of the department and the DEC would look for a commitment from Oxford when the company files its draft environmental statement.

So far, no specific negotiations have been conducted, said Richard Sweeney, deputy permit administrator in the DEC's regional office.

Robert Graulich, an Oxford spokesman, said the company's proposal presents the best way to eliminate tire dumps because tires that have been subjected to the weather for extended periods are often unsuitable for other recycling methods.

But because of the expense involved in collecting and transporting the tires, a cooperative arrangement would have to be worked out between local governments and Oxford, Graulich said.

The emergency management association's endorsement also hinges on the project's receiving overall DEC approval.

Oxford hopes to complete its draft environmental impact statement late this month. That statement then would be reviewed by the DEC and considered during at least one public hearing before the department makes a final decision.

Oxford hopes to begin constructing the proposed $100 million facility in the middle of this year and have it in operation by late 1992 or early 1993.

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