ALABAMA — The Tonawanda Seneca Nation has filed a lawsuit Friday to stop development of the $230 million Plug Power project at the STAMP site.
The lawsuit was submitted by Earthjustice, whose attorney Laura Berglan is representing the Nation.
It argues that the Genesee County Economic Development Center “failed to take a hard look at potential significant adverse impacts to the environment in violation of SEQRA.”
It also argues that the GCEDC issued unsupported findings in the project’s environmental review.
The STAMP site is located adjacent to the Nation’s land.
The Nation believes the development will infringe on the Big Woods, which they describe as “a pristine parcel of land that citizens of the Nation forage and hunt on, as they have for centuries.”
“The impact of the project — including the additional noise and smells related to additional people in the area, diesel machinery and general operations — will diminish the Big Woods as a pristine hunting ground,” said Kenith Jonathan, Sachem Chief for the Wolf Clan of the Tonawanda Seneca Nation and keeper of the Western Door, in a statement announcing the lawsuit. “Animals will be scared away from the area and I fear that the hunting will be less productive.”
Jonathan said the Big Woods are an important area for hunting, fishing and gathering traditional medicine used by the Haudenosaunee, or Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy, of which the Tonawanda Seneca Nation is a member.
The natural resources in the Big Woods also are the foundation for traditions important to the Tonawanda Seneca Nation and other Haudenosaunee Nations.
“I’m a traditional lacrosse stick maker,” Jonathan said in the statement. “If the megasite moves forward and the noise and people displace deer, the hides I use may not be available and I won’t be able to make traditional lacrosse sticks.”
“The Plug Power project is being touted as a green development initiative, but development of a manufacturing mega-site adjacent to the Nation’s Territory endangers both the environment and the cultural traditions and practices of the Tonawanda Seneca people,” Berglan, a senior attorney with Earthjustice, said. “A thorough environmental review that considers the impacts to the Tonawanda Seneca Nation, and animals and plants on which the Tonawanda Seneca people rely, must be conducted in accordance with the law.”
The lawsuit has been filed as the project has been advancing steadily.
Plug Power Inc. is a leading producer of hydrogen fuel cells and related infrastructure. Its plans, if completed, call for a liquid hydrogen production facility at the STAMP sit.
The facility is expected to create 68 full-time jobs at an average salary of $70,000 plus benefits. It would also be the STAMP site’s first tenant.
The STAMP site was itself touted Wednesday by Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer during a visit to Canandaigua. He said it had the potential to play significant roe in the region’s — and even the nation’s — tech industry.
The site, which comprises some 1,250 acres of build-ready parcels near the intersection of routes 77 and 63 in Alabama, was the subject of significant speculation earlier this year after the Wall Street Journal reported it was one of five sites in the U.S. that Samsung Electronics Co. was considering for a new semiconductor plant.
Jim Krencik, director of marketing and communications for the GCEDC, had said on Wednesday that Plug PowerInc. was in the process of seeking site plan approvals from the Genesee County and town of Alabama planning boards.
Should Plug Power’s company’s planning and approvals process go smoothly, Krencik had said the earliest the company is likely to have a functioning facility at the site is sometime in 2023.
Krencik declined to immediately comment as of Friday evening. Plug Power representatives could not immediately be reached for comment.