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Activists Continue Push To Prevent Tire Burning In Albany County


Activists have stepped up their efforts to stop an Albany County cement plant from burning tires for fuel.
A coalition of community and environmental advocates concerned about the burning of possibly millions of tires at the Lafarge cement plant in Ravena has been promoting a 15-minute film entitled “Albany Alert.”

The film is a response to LaFarge’s plans to mix tires and coal as fuel to make cement. Activists hope the Albany County Legislature will vote in favor of a proposed Clean Air Law to prohibit any business in Albany County from burning tires and other waste as fuel.

Former EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck notes the plant sits across the road from the Ravena Coeymans Selkirk middle and high schools. She says pollution from tire burning would impact the air, water and health of people in Albany County, Rensselaer County, Columbia County, and western Massachusetts.

“We do not need a major tire-burning facility in southern Albany County directly on the Hudson River.”

The LaFarge plant near the Greene County border has been a target for environmentalists for years. Sonja Stark is the filmmaker who shot "Albany Alert."

“It is aimed at the Albany County legislators urging them to vote in favor of passing a Clean Air Act. I'm not exactly sure what date they'll be voting on, I anticipated that they would have done it by now, but because of corona, I think it's been pushed off to the spring or summer. As far as why I made the film, well, I live in Selkirk, and that's like about 5 miles up wind of LaFarge, and I've been here for about 25 years. And yes, I'm always concerned with having clean air and clean water, given the proximity of my house to the plant.”

Stark says until she attended a lecture in January that demonstrated how vulnerable the environment really is, she thought she was protected by laws and environmental standards.

“I really truly believe that once the legislators see this film, that they will pass the Clean Air law, and how can they not. How can they turn a blind eye to everything that's addressed in this video, the science that Mike Ewall, founder of the energy Justice Network pointed out … it would not only be shameful, but downright criminal if they didn't pass the clean air act.”

Albany County legislator Mark Grimm, a Republican, represents Guilderland.

“On the agenda for the May 11th meeting for the Albany County Legislature is a proposal to set a public hearing on the emissions from the Ravena LaFarge plant. There is a question as to how we're going to manage public hearings given the COVID crisis. So that will be the question, if we set this hearing, according to the resolution, it's for Tuesday, June 23rd.

But the question is, now given the uncertainty of things, how we are, are we really going to be able to fully allow af complete airing of what is a very controversial issue. So that will be the question during our May 11th meeting. Do we specifically set June 23rd as a date or do we hold off on things until we know more about how people might be able to speak? A lot of people want to weigh in on both sides of this and of course, we want to hear as much as we can on this controversial issue.”

LafargeHolcim, a multi-billion dollar, multi-national business and the world’s largest cement company, did not respond to a request for comment.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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