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Coeymans To Refer Clean Air Law To Albany County Planning Board

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A vote expected tonight on a local law regarding air pollution in the Town of Coeymans has been postponed.

Tonight, the Coeymans town board is expected to refer its proposed Clean Air Law to the Albany County Planning Board for further review.

The law comes after town residents in 2017 got word that a cement plant in town operated by Lafarge was considering taking processed municipal waste to use as fuel. The waste from Hartford, Connecticut, would have been processed through a company called Mustang Renewable Power Ventures.

Coeymans town supervisor Philip Crandall said the rumors sparked conversation among concerned residents. He said Lafarge denied it was planning to import processed waste.

“They say they were in talks with them but then they cut the talks off – who knows what the truth is – but we found out about it. And so then the people of the town raised a ruckus. Which was absolutely the right to do. I would expect them to raise a ruckus,” said Crandall. 

And not just town residents, but others downwind of the Lafarge plant, including Barbara Heinzen, who lives just over the town line in New Baltimore.

“For me, this is very much a question of the health of a community. And no just a community in Coeymans, but for all the communities who are downwind of the smokestacks,” said Heinzen.

So, concerned about the potential impacts of trash incineration, the town started working to develop its Clean Air Law. Again, Supervisor Crandall.

“Because we wanted to make sure that this could never happen in our town, that we would not be the garbage capital of the Northeast,” said Crandall.

Crandall, however, says the law does not specifically target Lafarge.

Michael Ewall of the Energy Justice Network was brought in to help write the Clean Air Law, which would ban and set guidelines for several kinds of materials in the town.

“Even in plants that are equipped to be burning trash, they still, as the state environmental agency in New York has pointed out, are far dirtier than burning coal. So this would be a step back for air quality if you’re going to take a plant that’s not even designed to be a trash incinerator, and start burning trash in place of coal,” said Ewall.

Lafarge made upgrades to its kiln at the facility in order to burn alternative fuels. As the Times Union reported, tires, for example, would be used as fuel to replace coal materials.  The upgrades, the newspaper said, came after a 2010 agreement between the company and state and federal governments regarding emissions.

The company submitted to the town revisions to the Clean Air Law, including allowing the burning of “fuel-quality tires” or other materials “beneficially used under N.Y. Conservation Law as an ingredient or material.”

State Senator George Amedore, a Republican of the 46th District, says LaFarge was doing the right thing by working with the town.

“They’re asking if they can utilize their kiln for other types of fuel sources that have been permitted in the past and I think they’re being good corporate partners asking the local governments for permission or permitting and I support that,” said Amedore.

Amedore said he is seeking a “pragmatic” approach, not a political one.

Lafarge did not respond to a request for comment on the Clean Air Law from WAMC Thursday.

Supervisor Crandall explained why he is seeking the additional layer of oversight by sending the law to the county.

“Because I value the Albany County Planning Board’s opinion. They have experts that deal with stuff, and basically I want to make sure the law is technically right, it’s written well, what’s in it is not contrary to any county, town, or any other state or federal laws, they’ll look it all over and either give us a thumbs up or a thumbs down, or possibly they might want to suggest some changes,” said Crandall.

Crandall said he expects a town vote on the Clean Air Law within the next month-and-a-half.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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