HARTFORD — - Gov. M. Jodi Rell and Attorney General Richard Blumenthal on Wednesday raised the ante in a campaign by residents and lawmakers in southeastern Connecticut to stop the state's trash agency from putting an ash landfill in Franklin, near the Shetucket River.
Rell, in a letter dated Wednesday to the Connecticut Resource Recovery Authority president, repeated her "deep reservations" about use of the Franklin land.
Blumenthal, among the speakers at a protest rally at the state Capitol, said he would use state environmental laws to fight the CRRA's plan to create a 90- to 100-acre landfill surrounded by a 400-acre buffer zone. He said that as long as the CRRA has other options, the law requires the agency to select the alternative that causes the least damage to the environment.
First Selectwoman Jean deSmet of Windham, one of the surrounding towns that strongly opposes the Franklin project, said the fact that political rivals Blumenthal and Rell were solidly in the same camp on this issue was a strong sign that the opposition movement has legs.
Blumenthal took a swipe at the operator of the state's sole remaining ash landfill in Putnam, where CRRA is now depositing its ash residue. He said that Massachusetts-based Wheelabrator Inc. was "holding the state hostage" by charging disposal fees that were high enough to push CRRA to pursue its own landfill — a charge that a top Wheelabrator executive disputed.
"We're accepting the CRRA's business and we're happy to have it," said Robert Jacques, manager of business development. "Our relationship is the result of a very competitive bid. We responded aggressively to the request for proposals from the CRRA a year and half ago, and I would expect we would do so again."
CRRA spokesman Paul Nonnemacher said that the agency is preparing bid requests and would be willing to sign a long-term agreement with an existing landfill if it proves to be the cheaper option. CRRA officials have said that an agency-owned landfill would save member municipalities $9 per ton in disposal fees.
Franklin resident Susan Allen, state Sen. Edith Prague and other speakers at the Capitol rally said the value of the natural resources in the area, including the abundant fish, animal, and plant life in and round the Shetucket River and Cold Brook, outweigh CRRA's need for a landfill.
Sylvia Broude of the Toxics Action Center said that as long as Connecticut's trash recycling rate remains below the national average, the state will continue to rely too heavily on ash landfills.
Nonnemacher said that the CRRA has invested in recycling equipment and programs. He said the agency is open to considering other sites for a landfill but intends to pursue a permit for the Franklin location with the state Department of Environmental Protection. He said the CRRA believes the project would not harm wildlife, water quality or traffic in the area.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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