Updated: 9/1/20 – 5:30 P.M.
BINGHAMTON, NY (WSKG) — Endicott activists held an online news conference Monday as part of continued protests against a lithium-ion battery recycling facility set to open in the village.
Throughout the meeting, activists listed their demands for local and state elected officials, as well as for the South Korean corporation SungEel set to operate the facility.
They want elected officials to rescind votes changing the village’s zoning laws.* Despite a 2,000-signature petition opposing the change, the village board of trustees approved a zoning amendment in May so the recycling facility can open.
“We want the village trustees of Endicott to respect their residents, to listen to their concerns and to represent their best interest,” said environmental activist and Binghamton resident Ellen Connett.
Activists also called on Governor Andrew Cuomo to withhold funding. In 2018, Empire State Development granted $1.75 million to the project.
Speakers thanked Broome County-area State Senator Fred Akshar (NY-52), who recently penned a letter to New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation on the issue. Akshar asked the DEC to prepare a full Environmental Impact Statement, which would assess all environmental impacts of the proposed facility and alternatives to its technology. That process would also include public hearings and an opportunity for public comment.
“Not after the process starts, but before the process starts,” Endicott resident George Fiedler said, emphasizing Akshar’s remarks.
Following the Zoom meeting, the DEC issued a statement responding to activists’ criticism.
“DEC takes seriously any potential threats to public health and the environment and conducts rigorous, science-based reviews of permit applications to ensure a permit meets New York State’s stringent requirements that protect our communities,” the statement read. “As soon as DEC learned that PFAS compounds are present in some batteries, DEC took immediate action to ensure that the facility operations involving PFAS would receive a comprehensive review, including requiring SungEel to apply for a permit modification if any PFAS-containing batteries were processed at Endicott.”**
According to the DEC, any proposed changes to SungEel’s permit would have to include a State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR), and the type of environmental impact review would be determined after application materials and SEQR forms are submitted.
“We await the submission of additional information requested from the company before the facility can begin operation,” the DEC said in the statement. “DEC remains committed to continuing to keep residents and local officials informed throughout the process and using the best available science to ensure the utmost protection of residents.”
In a letter addressing activists’ claims earlier this month, the DEC said an environmental impact statement won’t be necessary. It stated SungEel has already identified all relevant impacts in its permit application.
*This story has been updated to clarify the village board vote.
**This story has been updated to include the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s response to complaints expressed in the meeting.