Opponents of a plan to create an ash dump in Franklin are closely watching Gov. M. Jodi Rell's office this week, hoping she will sign legislation that blocks the project.
The Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority says its plan to dump ash from its trash incinerators at the Franklin site is safe. But a group of residents have fought the project, taking their battle to the Capitol. Both the House and the Senate this session passed legislation barring the CRRA from buying land in either Windham or Franklin for an ash dump.
Rell spokesman Adam Liegeot said Wednesday that the governor has until Tuesday to act on the measure.
In a letter to Rell this week, Sen. Edith G. Prague, D-Columbia, said a veto by the governor "would show complete disregard for the well-being of those it would harm the most." An ash dump in Franklin would destroy "pristine" land there and pollute residents' drinking water, the letter states. Also signing the letter were Reps. Kevin Ryan, D- Montville, and Susan Johnson, D-Windham.
The letter follows recent allegations by environmentalists that the CRRA is using "last-minute scare tactics" to push for a veto, telling municipalities the legislation would mean the state would lose its ability to site landfills, forcing towns and cities to pay more to ship ash outside Connecticut.
Sylvia Broude of Toxics Action Center, a New England environmental watchdog group, said that more than 80 percent of residents in Franklin voted against the ash dump plan in a non-binding vote this spring and that at least 15 towns in eastern Connecticut oppose it.
"Scare tactics are nothing new for the CRRA," Broude said. "CRRA has not been able to demonstrate a need for this new ash dump, and this is clearly their effort of last resort. State money needs to go into reducing waste instead of finding more harmful ways to burn and bury it." Since the Hartford landfill closed at the end of December, the CRRA is sending ash to a private landfill in Putnam or out of state.
CRRA President Tom Kirk said Wednesday that the CRRA for a while now has talked publicly about the prospect of towns and cities paying more to have ash shipped out-of-state if an ash dump is not built in Connecticut.
"This is something we've been saying all along," Kirk said. "By no means is it a scare tactic."
Coventry officials have called on Rell to veto the measure, saying the legislation is bad public policy.
John Elsesser, Coventry's town manager, said another town leader — not the CRRA — contacted him recently about the legislation.
After a brief discussion at a town council meeting Monday, leaders decided to write to Rell, asking her to veto the legislation. Environmental issues and the plans' ties to Franklin were not the impetus behind the letter, he said. Town officials, he said, believe state regulatory agencies are charged with vetting such plans and that legislators put those standards in place.
"The issue for us is that it's poor public policy," Elsesser said. "The legislature has passed a bill basically circumventing an established procedure for this type of facility. If this is the accepted practice, next time any type of statewide facility is needed, this is going to be common practice."
Elsesser said that one group should not be allowed to "legislatively say, no, not here," and that scientists should decide whether a location is the right fit for such a facility.
"There's a process for this in the state," Elsesser said. "And we should let it work."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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