BINGHAMTON, NY (WSKG) — New York State Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo released a letter Tuesday calling on the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to ramp up investigations into the lithium-ion battery recycling facility set to open in Endicott.
The DEC initially granted the company behind the plant, SungEel MMC Americas LLC (SMCC), an air permit in March. The launch of the facility went on hold, however, after the DEC became aware of the presence of PFAS compounds, which the CDC says may increase the risk of cancer, in some batteries and required SMCC to submit a permit modification and tests. The DEC has yet to receive the necessary application.
In the letter, Lupardo asked the DEC to consider conducting a review for an Environmental Impact Statement. The statement would be available to the public for comment and include an analysis of all environmental impacts related to the facility. It would also provide an analysis of all reasonable alternatives to methods used in the battery recycling process.
Lupardo said her views on the facility shifted after hearing concerns raised by Endicott residents and local environmental groups. One group, No Burn Broome, organized several protests over the summer in opposition to the facility. They said its close proximity to residents and use of high-temperature processes may hurt the community.
“After doing months of homework, and consulting with industry experts, I am convinced that a more detailed environmental review is needed by the DEC, especially now that the project permit is on hold,” Lupardo said.
No Burn Broome, along with the Atlantic Chapter of the Sierra Club and the Binghamton Regional Sustainability Coalition, co-signed the letter.
The DEC previously told WSKG that any proposed permit modifications must include an environmental assessment, as prescribed by the State Environmental Quality Review process. According to a spokesperson from the DEC, the type of environmental impact review would be determined after SMCC submits application materials and SEQR forms to DEC.
“We await the submission of additional information requested from the company before the facility can begin operation,” the DEC spokesperson wrote. “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.”
State Senator Fred Akshar and Broome County Legislature Chairman Dan Reynolds issued a statement Tuesday night calling Lupardo’s letter a “stunning reversal.” The two sent a joint letter with other members of the Broome County legislature asking the DEC for a Environmental Impact Statement last month.
“It’s encouraging that Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo is finally listening to the residents of Endicott and surrounding communities and joining our call for the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC),” they wrote.
In an email Tuesday, Endicott Mayor Linda Jackson wrote the village is in discussion with the DEC about an environment impact study, but that it costs over $40,000.
“The Village cannot afford it,” Jackson wrote. “The DEC needs to pay for it.”