by Tom Ellis
RENSSELAER: More than fifteen area residents met in early November to discuss the proposed Rensselaer Engineered Fuels (REF) facility that has been proposed for the old BASF industrial site just south of downtown Rensselaer. We exchanged information and developed a plan of action. One, who lives a few blocks from the proposed facility, said he had gone door to door and there is much opposition to the project.
This gathering of activists occurred due to concerns about the project and a lack of information about it, fears the Rensselaer city government may not understand the project, and that Rensselaer city officials are trying to slip it through the regulatory process with out a full environmental review.
At an August meeting, the Rensselaer planning board, the lead agency, determined the proposed facility would have no significant environmental impact, and issued a negative declaration, which means that no environmental impact statement (EIS) will be required.
A full EIS is required due to the large size, scope, duration, and that the waste processing facility would be located atop a hazardous waste site in the Hudson River flood plain.
NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) regulations state that “Type I actions meet or exceed thresholds listed in the statewide or agency SEQR regulations. These are likely to require preparation of an EIS. Some examples: nonresidential projects physically altering 10 or more acres of land.” The REF, which has several other names, would occupy more than twenty acres.
After meeting with city planning director in mid-November, Judith Enck reported “It was described by the developer as a composting project, but IT IS NOT COMPOSTING. It is essentially a large solid waste transfer station, sited on the banks of the Hudson River, which will dry and “process” solid waste and then truck it an unidentified cement kiln in Pennsylvania where it would be burned. They are seeking approval to bring 150,000 tons of solid waste each year, using Route 9J from the south. No limit on number of trucks. They will need various NY DEC permits. City of Rensselaer has already approved and did not require an Environmental Impact Statement. 30 new jobs would be created on a 40 acre site that will be leased for 99 years from BASF. It is on a floodplain. They run a similar facility in West Virginia and have a similar facility proposed for New Windsor, in Orange County, NY.”
I spoke at the October 3, 2018 meeting of the Rensselaer city council, and told the council that a full environmental impact study is required, urged the city to rescind the negative declaration, issue a positive declaration, and mandate the preparation of an EIS. On November 15, I emailed DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos, urging him “as DEC commissioner, [to] instruct the city of Rensselaer that DEC requires that an EIS be prepared.”
Many Rensselaer city residents have a poor perception of DEC and Rensselaer city government due to the largest construction and demolition (C&D) dump in NYS that DEC and the city permit to operate despite its close proximity to a school, regulatory violations at the dump, overweight trucks, and the up to 100 large trucks travel through downtown Rensselaer each weekday to and from the dump at the east end of Partition Street.
I think the Rensselaer city government miscalculated badly when they agreed to host the solid waste facility at the old BASF site at the same time there is growing opposition to the C&D dump. The two issues may become fused together into the larger issue that Rensselaer is under a trash assault and the Rensselaer city government does not care about the health and safety of its residents. DEC will also miscalculate if it allows the project to proceed without an EIS.
Published in December 2018-January 2019
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