Letter. How opponents turned back SungEel project

Your Turn
Paul and Ellen Connett, Guest columnists
February 7, 2021.
Press & Sun-Bulletin, page A12, Binghamton NY.

On Monday, Feb. 1, the Endicott Board of Trustees brought an end to the two-year effort to bring a lithium-ion battery “recycling” plant into the village.

The trustees voted 3 to 0, with one abstention, to rescind a recycling law which would have allowed the SungEel facility, with its toxic emissions, to operate a stone’s throw from where people live and children play.

This controversial recycling law, passed in May 2020, used the vague term “processing,” which without definition allowed the use of incineration by SungEel or any other “recycling” company that wanted to operate in the over 500 acres of industrial-zoned areas in Endicott.

For the record, 41 of the 113 people who joined Monday’s Zoom call supported rescinding the law, and only one was against doing so. Trustees Warner, Dorner and Burlingame voted to rescind.

The group that led this successful fight (NoBurnBroome.com) was not opposed to recycling, but were opposed to SungEel’s process, which involved incineration.

NoBurnBroome worked on several fronts:

• Education and communication. NoBurnBroome’s principal task was to educate the local residents and regulatory agencies on the dangers of SungEel’s project. Endicott is a health compromised community due to past industrial pollution. IBM dumped tons of the solvent trichloroethylene (TCE) into the ground. Over the years, this carcinogenic chemical has crept into the air of buildings, mainly family homes. As we write, venting systems are still working to remove these carcinogenic fumes.

• Science. NoBurnBroome’s science group studied how SungEel’s process would work. They found that PFAS (forever toxic chemicals) would be emitted from SungEel’s processes but were not considered in the Air Permit issued by the Department of Environmental Conservation in March 2020. It was the PFAS issue that forced the DEC to put a hold on this permit in May 2020 until SungEel could provide a solution to the problem. To date, SungEel has not done so.

• Legal. NoBurnBroome hired lawyer Claudia Braymer to represent the best interests of the community. The community donated to pay for her services. She wrote several letters to Endicott’s village board and represented six residents in a lawsuit against the village.

As activists who have worked on many campaigns since the 1960’s, we can say that the NoBurnBroome campaign was a very successful model for others to follow. It was a remarkable team effort, drawing on people of all ages and walks of life as well as experts from many fields. We were constantly inspired by Mary Ann Dorner’s faith in the community and in the truth. We had calm and patient leadership from Robert and Ellen Tiberi, who chaired our meetings and respected everyone’s efforts — both large and small. But most importantly, the campaign was fueled by a genuine love for this resilient community, which has been so badly treated by past industrial operations.

It is time now to move from a campaign that said “No” to a dangerous operation to a campaign that says “Yes” to companies that offer good jobs without posing a threat to our health and environment.

Paul and Ellen Connett are Binghamton residents.

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