A virtual community forum on clean air in a Southern Albany County town took place this week.
In September, Democratic Albany County Executive Dan McCoy signed a local clean air law aimed at companies like Lafarge and Norlite, which was ordered to halt the burning of firefighting foam at its Cohoes incinerator.
In November, taking advantage of a provision in state law that allows local municipalities to override county laws, the Coeymans town board unanimously passed two amendments to the 2019 Coeymans Clean Air Law, which changed the law to allow tire-burning at the Lafarge/Holcim Cement Plant, situated across the street from the Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk High School on Route 9W.
Ravena resident Carlo A. C. de Oliveira :
"There were recommendations made by the board, made to the board, by a committee, a committee that was composed of three individuals who supposedly investigated the Clean Air Law and concluded that the Clean Air Law was unenforceable, and that if the Clean Air Law remained on the books, that the town of Coeymans could be sued by Lafarge and in fact, Lafarge had sent out a letter to the town board, threatening to sue the town, if amendments were not made to the law."
Jane Williams chairs the National Sierra Club Clean Air Team. The environmental policy expert says once a kiln gets the green light to burn tires, it opens the door to bring in other types of hazardous waste.
"A lot of cement plants get paid a tipping fee to burn tires, a lot of cement plants get paid a tipping fee to burn waste. So now instead of having to buy coal, they're getting paid to take a waste. So that's why there's so much political pressure. It's very important to understand that you great Increase the profitability of your cement plant if you can burn waste."
Activists say LaFarge is applying to get permission from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to burn a million tires a year.
Erica Ringewald is the DEC's Deputy Commissioner of Public Affairs:
"DEC uses every tool at our disposal to ensure all of New York's communities are protected. That's our goal, and that's what drives everything we do. And that's why we rigorously review every permit application, and why we require compliance with stringent standards, using the latest and best available science to ensure public health and the environment and protected. The Lafarge facility lacks the infrastructure to actually burn tires and Lafarge has not nor has it ever completed the steps necessary to burn tires pursuant to their permit.”
Albany County Legislator Matt Miller, a Democrat from the 36th district, co-sponsored Local Law B:.
He claims Carver Companies at the Port of Coeymans — which did not respond to a request for comment — is trying to have it both ways.
“You might have seen the Equinor wind project that recently got approved for Albany that they're gonna expand the port of Albany to build the turbines there. Right. And that's going to be in my district, which is great. But Carver, also in the Port of Albany, had a little piece of that. So he's doing two things. One, he's using that as ‘Look at all those green wonderful stuff I'm doing for the green economy,’ hiding all the negative stuff he's doing for solid waste management. And he's now also got some friends in high places. He's now into the state, doing the good part, you know some green stuff, it's going to make it that much harder to get some of those people to be on our side, because they're gonna say the same thing 'well he's in a part of this really big important project.'"
Lafarge/Holcim and members of the Coeymans Town Board have not responded to requests for comment.