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New York state Assembly members debate legislation in the Assembly Chamber at the state Capitol on Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2019, in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink)

The state Legislature is closer to preventing the construction of New York's largest trash incinerator in the Finger Lakes region. 

A bill approved by the state Assembly Thursday would prohibit the state from issuing permits for a trash incinerator if it's located within the Oswego River/Finger Lakes Watershed, if there is at least one landfill within a 50-mile radius of the proposed incinerator and if it would be located within 10 miles of a state Department of Environmental Conservation-designated priority waterbody. 

The main aim of the legislation is to block Circular enerG's plan to build a $365 million, 180-foot-tall incinerator at the former Seneca Army Depot in Romulus, Seneca County. 

With the incinerator, Circular enerG plans to have trash transported to the site and then burned to produce electricity. 

The proposed incinerator's proximity to two of the Finger Lakes — Cayuga and Seneca lakes — has generated much opposition to the project. There is also concern because the incinerator would be located close to the Romulus school district. 

"Protecting the natural resources that drive the Finger Lakes region is critical to sustaining our economic growth," said Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb, a Republican who represents a portion of Seneca County. "Our small business, viticulture and hospitality sectors rely on a high quality of life for residents and visitors alike. This bill protects the health of our natural landscape and the future vitality of the Finger Lakes region." 

One reason lawmakers pushed for passage of the bill is Circulr enerG sought approval through the state's Article X siting process, which is used for power plants. The state Public Service Commission is tasked with reviewing the request. 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who appoints members of the Public Service Commission, announced last year that he opposes the trash incinerator project. He called it "simply not appropriate." 

Legislators introduced bills that would prevent trash incinerators from using the Article X siting process. But they took a different approach this year to focus on the trash incinerator project in the Finger Lakes region. Instead of a broader bill with statewide ramifications, the legislation passed by the Assembly would prevent incinerators from being constructed in the Finger Lakes Watershed. 

A companion bill has been introduced in the Senate by state Sen. Rachel May, a Syracuse Democrat. State Sen. Pam Helming, whose district includes all of Seneca County, is a cosponsor. 

The bill was reported out of the Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee in February. It has been placed on the calendar for a Senate floor vote. 

"Whether you are a Republican or a Democrat, this is not a political issue," Helming, R-Canandaigua, said. "We need to continue putting the people first, not politics." 

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Online producer Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or robert.harding@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.

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