LOCKPORT – The president of Niagara County’s largest environmental group implied Friday that campaign contributions to the Republican Party by CWM Chemical Services and its parent company might be behind the County Legislature’s inaction on rehiring an attorney to fight CWM’s expansion.
The Legislature did not vote Tuesday on a resolution sponsored by Chairman William L. Ross, C-Wheatfield, and Vice Chairman Clyde L. Burmaster, R-Ransomville, to continue the county’s $50,000 funding commitment for the work of Gary A. Abraham, an Allegany attorney the county has retained since 2005 to fight CWM’s expansion request for its hazardous waste landfill in the Town of Porter.
Instead, after a lengthy caucus of the Legislature’s GOP majority, the resolution was referred to committee and Abraham was asked to appear at a Nov. 12 Administration Committee meeting to update the legislators on the situation.
Majority Leader Richard E. Updegrove, R-Lockport, told The Buffalo News Thursday, “It was the unanimous consensus of our caucus to do our due diligence for taxpayers of Niagara County.”
He said the county hasn’t changed its position of opposing the CWM expansion, which would prevent the landfill from running out of space in a few years.
“Every single legislator I’ve spoken to has expressed concern about the health of Lewiston-Porter residents,” Updegrove said.
But Residents for Responsible Government, an environmental group in the Lewiston-Porter area, has its doubts.
“The County Legislature has had seven years to ask questions about the expert work on the state hazardous waste permitting and siting process in support of our county Health Department and our people,” group president April Fideli said. “Therefore, the comments by Mr. Updegrove in [Friday’s] newspaper are not credible.”
At a news conference on a downtown Lockport sidewalk, the group distributed data from the state Board of Elections website, showing that CWM or its parent company, Waste Management, have donated a total of $71,750 to the county GOP committee, the county Conservative Party or the Town of Porter Republican Committee since 2007.
“The public can draw its own conclusions from the facts,” Fideli said.
Updegrove said the facts are that the county started the anti-CWM legal fight in 2005. “We’ve funded this every single year,” he said.
He repeated that Abraham will be asked to discuss the status of the matter, his estimate of the likelihood of winning the case, and “how much more money he believes will be necessary.”
Burmaster said the Administration Committee’s session with Abraham “probably will be in executive session, because there’s probably going to be litigation.”