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DEC Moves To Prevent Tire-Burning At Lafarge’s Ravena Plant

DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos
WAMC photo by Dave Lucas
DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos (file photo)

A cement plant in southern Albany County has been prevented from burning tires and tire-derived fuel by New York state.

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos announced Wednesday that DEC is modifying the Lafarge cement plant’s Title V air permit to remove authorization to burn TDF.

“While Lafarge never did burn TDF, it was important to us to ensure they wouldn’t moving forward. Lafarge never completed the necessary analysis to burn TDF. It also lacks the necessary infrastructure to do so.”

New York State Senator Michelle Hinchey, a Democrat from the 46th district, welcomed the news.

“I think that this is a great example of what can happen when your raise your voice,” said Hinchey.

Local activists and residents in Coeymans pushed the Albany County town to adopt a local law in 2019 aimed at restricting air pollutants, eventually approved by a split town board 3-2.

At the time, opponents saw the approval of the Coeymans Clean Air Law as politically motivated. The following year, under a new town board and town supervisor, Republican George McHugh, amendments were made to the law. At the time, McHugh expressed concern over the potential legal costs of the original law. 

At the same time, a push was underway to establish Albany County’s Clean Air Act, signed by Democratic County Executive Dan McCoy in September.

William Reinhardt, a Democratic county legislator from Slingerlands, believes DEC’s decision Wednesday validates the county law.

“I do feel that, on the whole, the determination by DEC was, ‘There are too many unknowns here.’ That we should not… kind of like the Do No Harm Principle? If we’re not really sure what we’re going to get from this maybe we shouldn’t go down that path,” said Reinhardt.

The county’s Clean Air Act was developed amid other air quality concerns, notably around the Norlite incineration facility in Cohoes, which had contracted with the Defense Department to burn toxic firefighting foam.

“Even if you can potentially be, and making all kinds of assumptions about how the company doing the burning never violates any of permits – which never seems to be the case – and that all of the equipment works exactly as it’s designed for, and is always operating at the correct temperature and resonance time and all of those technical parameters which are used to justify burning things… even with all that you still have some pollutants increase,” said Reinhardt.

Barbara Heinzen, a member of the Clean Air Coalition of Greater Ravena-Coeymans, told WAMC she was “absolutely delighted” with DEC’s permitting decision, but warned it’s not the end of the story – noting Lafarge’s ability to appeal and reapply.

In a statement to WAMC, Supervisor McHugh said in part, "The town board is committed to watching this situation very closely and appreciates the work of the NYS DEC in this regard." 

McHugh continues, saying the town board trusts the decision by DEC "was made by after carefully balancing the interests of local industry, the community, and the environment."

Jocelyn Gerst, a spokeswoman for LafargeHolcim, told WAMC the company is reviewing the DEC’s decision and is considering all its options.

Last week, in an unrelated matter, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of New York announced a settlement in which the owners of the plant will pay an $850,000 civil penalty for past environmental violations.

NOTE: This post has been updated from its original version. 

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