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Coeymans Approves Clean Air Law

A crowded Coeymans town hall
Lucas Willard
A crowded Coeymans town hall

Following more than a year of discussion, the Albany County Town of Coeymans has passed a local law aimed at restricting air pollutants.

Mirroring a meeting two weeks earlier, opponents and supporters of Coeymans’ Clean Air Law packed town hall Thursday night.

The passage of the Clean Air Law on a 3-2 vote ends more than a year of debate, which intensified closer to the measure’s passage.

Town Supervisor Philip Crandall led the effort to see it through.

“The only reason people got riled up is because Lafarge riled them up. And certain local politicians, my opposition,” said Crandall.

The Lafarge cement plan in the Village of Ravena is a primary employer in the region. The towering facility and smokestacks are visible for several miles from the Hudson River community.

The debate began in 2017. Some residents learned that the operators of the Lafarge cement plant had considered importing processed municipal waste from Hartford, Connecticut to use as fuel. Ultimately, such a plan never materialized.

Some also had air quality concerns surrounding Lafarge’s pursuance of a plan to burn so-called Tire Derived Fuel, or TDF, in its new kiln -- a multi-million dollar overhaul was completed in 2017.

The town hired a consultant from the Energy Justice Network to write the Clean Air Law. It does not refer to or mention Lafarge by name. The law restricts emissions and also limits the amount and types of materials that can be used as fuels.

Supporters praised the measure as a way to protect clean air.  Opponents called it politically motivated and complained that people from outside town limits appeared at local meetings.

The 3 to 2 vote was along party lines. But Crandall, a Democrat, denies the action was politically motivated. 

“It was just a matter of right and wrong. It was a matter of what’s healthy for the community and what’s not. And what’s healthy for our neighbors around us,” said Crandall.

Republican town councilman  Kenneth Burns voted against the bill, but also denied the votes were made for political reasons.

“I don’t care if I get elected again. I love serving the Town of Coeymans. So I don’t care politically one way or the other. But I do believe that these guys really did do what they thought was best…and I don’t mean these guys…the town board did what they were supposed to do. Me, personally, I’m just not comfortable voting for this right now – pushing the law through right now – until I have more information,” said Burns.

A slate of Republican candidates that appeared earlier this month had cautioned against the Clean Air Law, meaning the measure is already a factor in the upcoming election.

Moving forward, Lafarge’s Ravena plant manager David Fletcher said the facility already operates under hazardous air pollution thresholds from the state and federal governments that are more strict than those laid out in the Clean Air Law. 

He says tire-derived fuel would make up a small percentage of fuel it would use, but the plant would be affected by how much tire-derived fuel it could consume.

“The law limits it to 25 tons per day. Period. Right? So, by virtue of the broad definition of waste that’s constructed in the law, it specifically points out TDF as one of the compounds they define as a waste, and as such, the law automatically applies. So it limits our ability to burn the quantities of TDF we can consume,” said Fletcher.

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