The recently indicted Senator Robert Ortt (R-North Tonawanda) owes his political career to his mentor, the former Senator and also recently indicted George Maziarz (R-Newfane), who ruled over Niagara County politics for decades. Maziarz served as the Chairman of the Senate Energy Committee and pushed hard to legalize hydrofracking upstate.
That close relationship with the state’s natural gas lobby was shared with Ortt, his handpicked successor. Residents of Pendleton are furious that Ortt has been silent on The Northern Access Pipeline that was to run through the Town, despite their fierce objections.
That pipeline was denied permitting by the Cuomo administration last week.
Despite that win for activists, Ortt’s bad record on environmental issues is infuriating his North Tonawanda political base — who face a shocking environmental catastrophe in their backyards.
The chemical waste from the Hooker Chemical – Love Canal clean up were disposed of in a municipally authorized open-air dump in the Town of Wheatfeild, along the North Tonawanda city line. Exposed for decades, Forbes Street residents now endure shocking rates of cancer, neurological disorders, reproductive irregularities, and other diseases.
One woman had eight miscarriages.
Residents have filed a notice of claim against the Town of Wheatfeild in a civil action estimated to include $5.6 billion in damages.
Rather than proactively reaching out to residents to help in securing a settlement for homeowners, Senator Ortt has been silent. Observers say that he has been self-absorved, focused entirely on his recent Albany County grand jury indictment relating to an allegedly no-show campaign position held by his wife that prosecutors allege constituted a bribe.
Ortt has refused calls immediately following the indictment that he resign his office.
But many activists are renewing those calls for a resignation following Ortt’s unconscionable silence on an issue critically important to his most immediate political base. If Ortt loses favor among his North Tonawanda base, he will not be viable for reelection in a Republican primary next year.
Assemblyman Angelo Morinello (R-Niagara Falls), Supervisor Robert Cliffe (R-Wheatfeild), Mayor Paul Dyster (D-Niagara Falls), and Councilwoman Kristin Grandinetti (D-Niagara Falls) are considered natural contenders for the Senate seat.