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Last Chance to Say No!

No to what could be the biggest and ugliest industrial complex ever built on the banks of the Hudson River: a papermill and cogeneration plant called Besicorp, to be sited in the City of Rensselaer, next to the historic Fort Crailo neighborhood and directly across from Albany's waterfront.

How? By sending written comments before October 10, 2003 to:

Administrative Law Judge P. Nicholas Garlick
NYS DEC Office of Hearings and Mediation Services
625 Broadway, First Floor
Albany, NY 12233-1550
Phone: 518/402-9003
Fax: 518/402-9037

Refer to: Besicorp-Empire Development Company, LLC ("BEDCO") -
Case No. 00-F-2057; DEC Project No. 4 - 3814 - 00052

It has been more than three years since Besicorp first appeared in Rensselaer. Three years of lies and deceit, each exposed by the Rensselaer County Greens, from PM 2.5 to truck traffic, the PILOT agreement, site remediation and visual impacts. These issues and others were litigated by a number of active parties, including the City, the Fort Crailo Neighborhood Association, Sierra Club and the Greens. Some were "resolved" during negotiations, others remained. The Greens took the lead on the issues of Visual Impacts and Waterfront Development and hired landscape architects and planning consultants T. J.Boyle & Associates, of Burlington, Vt., to review the Application's visual analysis, create computerized photosimulations and testify at hearings. These hearings ended Sept. 26th, marking the end of the adjudicatory process. The record is now closed and in the hands of the decision makers. After all briefs are filed, the judges will make their recommendations to the Commissioners at the end of November. The DEC Commissioner will first render her decision on the SEQRA review of the papermill, followed by the Siting Board on the Article X Application for the Cogen Plant. The current deadline for the Board's decision is February 2004.

With the hearings closed, we are now able to make public the photosimulations created by T. J. Boyle. In the simulation attached here (see below), the project is seen from Island Creek Park, at the South Albany waterfront, directly across the Hudson River. Though lacking in architectural detailing, the simulation shows the true scale of the project, accurately rendering what one would see standing at the exact same spot where the photograph was taken.

Starting on the right of the picture, one can see the proposed cogen plant with buildings 100 feet tall and twin stacks 250 ft. tall, a giant when compared to the existing power plant (stack visible to the right of the proposed cogen). The papermill stack, in the middle of the picture, is 216 ft. tall. The three surge tanks are 90 ft. tall and the buildings behind them are 85 ft. tall, only 400 ft away from the river's edge. The papermill building alone would be 900 ft. long and 600 ft. wide, the equivalent in size to the entire Fort Crailo neighborhood, or nine football fields.

Water treatment and intake facilities (30-35 ft tall) would extend along the river. Note that existing trees on the river's edge, shown screening these facilities, will be removed to allow the installation of a groundwater collection system designed to prevent the migration of contaminants into the Hudson River, as required by DEC's Division of Hazardous Remediation. The site, previously occupied by BASF, is heavily contaminated and a Class 2 state Superfund site. DEC's Record of Decision, however, merely calls for a 4-inch asphalt cap over the entire site (where not covered by buildings or structures), thus raising doubts that tree-planting will at all occur on the site.

Cumulatively, with the plumes from the wet cooling towers and stack of the existing power plant, the plumes from this giant industrial facility will combine to create a huge curtain of smoke rising over the landscape, visible for miles.

Views from the river and along the riverfront, and from many locations in Albany from the Empire State Plaza to the South End, would be seriously impacted. More significantly, the project would be detrimental to the success of the proposed Living History Development for the Hudson River Waterfront project, which is to include a replica of Fort Orange, an interpretive center and a shuttle to the Fort Crailo Historic Site. Efforts to redevelop the Albany riverfront and promote tourism in the Capital District centered on the Hudson River would be seriously compromised.

Many other issues have been raised regarding this project: It would generate up to 80 trucks per hour, 508 trucks per day, going through the City of Rensselaer and over the Dunn Memorial Bridge. Noise from trains, trucks and paper machines would rattle the neighborhood. And in addition to the smell of rotten eggs typical of papermills, the facility would also emit over a million tons of criteria air pollutants per year, even requiring the purchase of pollution credits for nitrous oxide (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Nothing about this site makes it uniquely suited for this project, and nothing about this project requires that it be located next to a river. Water can be supplied via pipeline for long distances and Besicorp does not envision maritime use of the river. Local road access is in fact inadequate to handle the expected increase in truck traffic. There are clearly no justifications for locating this large polluting facility in the midst of a heavily populated area; no justification for defacing a unique urban waterfront, a major attraction in the Capital Region; no justification for choking to death this old Fort Crailo neighborhood.

As for the argument that it would facilitate the remediation and beneficial reuse of an abandoned brownfield, the recent decision by DEC to limit the cleanup and leave all contaminated soils in place raises doubts as to the significance of these claims, even suspicion that DEC chose a quick fix in order to accommodate Besicorp. It has already abandoned a portion of the site due to extreme levels of contaminants. It will likely do nothing to clean up the site beyond the minimum required by DEC, which is evidently not much. Instead it will make a big mess of it during construction, drive dozens of piles through to the lower water table, further spreading contaminants, pour a large concrete slab over it and pave the rest. In a few years it will abandon the site, leaving it in worst shape than it found it.

In a letter to Siting Board Secretary Brilling and DEC Commissioner Crotty, Mayor Pratt stated that "the Besicorp Project, as presently proposed, is not in the 'public interest', as its alleged 'public benefits' do not outweigh its adverse environmental impacts. The City recommends that, upon this basis, the proposed project should be denied." We agree. We hope you do too and that you will, without delay, send comments in opposition to this project to Judge Garlick. Thank you.

For more information or to view additional photosimulations of the project, see contact below.

Eric Daillie, Project coordinator - Rensselaer County Greens. Tel: (518) 273-8970 - E-mail: edaillie@nycap.rr.com