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Albany County Legislature Set To Vote On Local Clean Air Law Tonight

Environmentalists gathered outside the Albany County Courthouse New Year's Day to raise awareness about their efforts to stop an Albany County cement plant from burning tires for fuel.
WAMC photo by Dave Lucas
Environmentalists gathered outside the Albany County Courthouse New Year's Day to raise awareness about their efforts to stop an Albany County cement plant from burning tires for fuel.

A vote by the Albany County Legislature on a local clean air law is expected tonight.

The legislation would stop new waste facilities from establishing in Albany County. It would also keep LafargeHolcim in Ravena from burning tires and trash, and Norlite in Cohoes, which burned toxic firefighting foam for two years, from burning new waste.

Local Law B co-sponsor Sam Fein is a Democrat who represents the 6th District.

Credit County of Albany
Albany County Legislative District 6: Sam Fein

"So many times waste burning facilities impact low-income communities and communities of color so much more, they're often put in places where people don't have a voice, they don’t have power in the halls of government, and so we wanna make sure we have a more equitable society and a more safe society and a healthy society for everyone. That's really what this law is about

Former EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck, a regular WAMC Roundtable panelist, says the measure has been a long time coming. 001 "People are focused on the COVID-19 pandemic and presidential politics and other things, but this is an opportunity for people to really pay attention to an important local issue that also affects health. Certainly not as immediate as COVID-19, but the county has an opportunity to make sure that we don't have more asthma attacks, more incidents of heart disease, because of air pollution. And in the case of Norlite a host of cancers associated with airborne exposure and dermal exposure to burning PFAS chemicals."

Enck notes the bill has gone through various revisions, and she’s trying to round up public support for the bill.

"It's never been easier for people to follow and participate in local government because, at least for the Albany County legislature, they have remarkably put all of their sessions on Zoom. So you just go to the Albany County Legislature website, you click on the date on the calendar, and you can get a link to observe the proceedings on Zoom, they have a couple of comment periods, you can comment on Zoom, and I think it's working very efficiently. If people don't have access to a computer or Zoom, they also provide a phone number by which people can listen in."

38th District Democrat Victoria Plotsky co-sponsored the bill.

Credit County of Albany
Albany County Legislative District 38: Victoria Plotsky

"I'm feeling pretty positive about the vote tonight. We've had a lot of discussions on it as we've gone through various versions of the bill and done a good deal of legal research and we feel strongly that this is a solid bill, that is going to protect the well-being of our residents and residents of surrounding counties for years to come."

LaFarge responded to a request for comment by email, which says in part:

"The U.S. EPA and New York State DEC, with their expertise and resources, are the appropriate authorities for determining what are safe sources of fuel for cement plants such as ours – and ‘tire derived fuel’ has been determined to be safe, efficient, and environmentally sound. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, TDF is a viable alternative and proven technology that has been successfully used in the US for more than 30 years."

Norlite declined to comment.

If passed, the bill goes to Democratic County Executive Dan McCoy, who will have 30 days to sign it.

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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