Over the years, environmentalists have raised concerns about a cement plant in Ravena, New York.
Activists are sounding an alarm after the Coeymans Town Board proposed amendments to the 2019 Coeymans Clean Air Law which limits tire-burning at the Lafarge/Holcim Cement Plant, which is situated across the street from the Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk High School on Route 9W.
In September, Albany County Executive Dan McCoy signed a local clean air law, “Local Law B,” which targets companies like Lafarge and Norlite, which was ordered to halt the burning of firefighting foam at its Cohoes incinerator.
Former EPA regional administrator Judith Enck hailed that law as "...the strictest county-level air pollution statute in the entire state."
But Enck cautions there is a provision in state law that allows local municipalities to override county laws. Patricia Sibilia is President of the League of Women Voters of Albany County. During a Wednesday Zoom session, she warned that the town board's proposed amendments would override pollution protections and remove the obligation to monitor 19 pollutants continuously.
" The proposed change to move away from the World Health Organization standards to the less stringent EPA interim procedures is unacceptable. In addition, amendments that will now limit available monitoring equipment to only those deemed proven by the EPA, allows Lafarge/Holcim too much leeway on the required monitoring. The same is true about the proposed amendment of the continuous monitoring system equipment language to add when commercially available. Unless the citizens are allowed to demand the monitoring they need to protect their health as stated in the current law, equipment may not be commercially manufactured to meet them. Sibilia adds that under the amendments, monitoring will happen once a year, which she says will not represent the levels that continuous monitoring would detect.
"A company can follow state regulations and still be a large air polluter that is unhealthy for residents." Sara Pruiksma is one of those residents:
"I felt a great satisfaction and pride when the Clean Air Law was passed. And I certainly feel like the profits of Lafarge are overcoming and are more important than our health. And I think that's a horrible precedent to set."
36th District Albany County Legislator Matt Miller co-sponsored Albany County’s Local Law B:
"One of the problems that we have with the county bill is there is a loophole in the environmental conservation law, which to Lafarge is really trying to exploit right now. And it comes down to the fact that the town board when they did run to overturn, take over the town board, they could run on a platform that said, ‘Sure, we're not going to repeal a law.’ Because they knew if they did, then, you know, county law would take precedent, they would have to explicitly allow burning of these materials. And that is what their language is doing. Some of the language in there says that if you can burn something for fuel, then we're not going to consider it waste. And that would be tires, and that would be garbage."
Miller, a Democrat, is urging the public to join a hearing scheduled for 6 o’clock tonight at Ravena Town Hall. It will livestreamed.
Lafarge/Holcim and the Coeymans Town Board did not immediately respond to requests for comment.