In the State of New York, there are 25 landfills where all the waste generated is collected. The largest of them all by far is the High Acres landfill. This infrastructure manages more than one million tons of municipal waste per year and has a capacity of 41 million tons of waste. This landfill has been causing odor impact for over half-century.
The company Waste Management (WM) owns the High Acres Landfill. This facility, located in the towns of Perinton and Macedon, commenced its operations over 50 years ago. Perinton's residents have been suffering odor impacts from this mega-infrastructure planned over half a century ago. So this landfill is not doing well regarding odor impact management.
None of the measures WM has taken over the years, such as rejecting some odorous wastes or using neutralizers to abate the odor, have solved the issue. In addition, odor monitoring strategies, such as measuring H2S or methane, have also failed to improve the situation.
Therefore, the neighbors of this locality, tired of the inaction of the public administration in general and of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) in particular, decided to organize themselves and create an association called Fresh Air for the Eastside (FAFE) in 2017.
Parallel to these events, in January 2022, the New York State Constitution incorporated the right to a "healthy environment" in its bill of rights. This chapter, also known as the "green amendment," guarantees New Yorkers "the right to a clean air."
Following this green amendment, FAFE filed a lawsuit against WM, the DEC, the State of New York, and the City of New York, alleging that odors from the landfill violated the Green Amendment. The Monroe County Supreme Court concluded that the Green Amendment is binding only against the DEC.
Or in other words, this court has ruled that FAFE has the right to sue the DEC, and therefore the State of New York, for its inaction in preventing odor impacts from the High Acres landfill.
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