Press release from Tonawanda Seneca Nation:
GENESEE COUNTY, New York — The Tonawanda Seneca Nation reached a settlement (with the Genesee County Economic Development Center) of a lawsuit seeking to stop Plug Power, Inc.’s construction of a facility that would anchor a manufacturing megasite, known as the STAMP (Science & Technology Advanced Manufacturing Park) site. In June, the Nation petitioned the New York State Supreme Court to stop the development of the Plug Power project adjacent to the Nation’s land in Genesee County, but a judge dismissed the case on procedural grounds last week. The STAMP site is adjacent to the Nation and within the Nation’s ancestral territory.
“We’re disappointed that the court didn’t have the opportunity to hear our arguments in this case,” said Kenith Jonathan, Sachem Chief for the Wolf Clan of the Tonawanda Seneca Nation and keeper of the Western Door. “We never got our day in court to explain how the project would diminish the Big Woods and have a negative impact on our Nation and our way of life.”
In its petition to the court, the Nation warned that the development would diminish the Big Woods, a pristine parcel of land that citizens of the Nation forage and hunt on, as they have for centuries. The Big Woods is a source of various traditional medicines important to the Nation’s culture and health. For centuries, the Tonawanda Seneca people have relied on the medicines, passing down that knowledge from generation to generation. Tonawanda Seneca citizens also play traditional games not far from the proposed Plug Power site. Citizens of the Nation voiced concern that the games would be disturbed by the traffic, noise and light pollution from the project.
“Make no mistake; we are opposed to developing a manufacturing megasite adjacent to pristine woods on undeveloped land,” said Chief Jonathan. “While we are disappointed that the construction will go forward, this settlement includes important protections to reduce the impact on our Nation and to protect our way of life. We are hopeful that the agreement can be the framework for a more collaborative relationship with GCEDC and Plug Power moving forward.”
The settlement negotiated by the Nation will permanently protect from development over 200 acres of land on the STAMP site that is adjacent to the Nation’s territory. Plug Power, Inc. also is prohibited from using pesticides on the protected lands, which will further protect the environment. The Nation also will have cultural resource monitors onsite during earthmoving activities — to help identify and protect any unanticipated cultural resource discoveries.