by Barbara Heinzen
COEYMANS, NY: In December, 2017, Mike Ewall, of the Energy Justice Network, alerted Albany County and the Town of Coeymans that Connecticut was considering a proposal to ship municipal trash to the LaFarge/Holcim Cement Plant in Ravena. In response, Albany County and the Town of Coeymans organized a packed press conference two days after Christmas where former EPA Administrator, Judith Enck, spoke against Connecticut’s proposal. On December 31, 2017, Connecticut decided to keep its trash to itself.
Afterwards, the Coeymans Town Board asked Mike Ewall to help them draft a Clean Air Law. The law limits the quantify of waste that can be incinerated in the Town and requires the company to monitor and publish the amount of 19 hazardous air emissions that could be produced if waste incineration takes place. The law had its public hearing in August 2018. No one from Lafarge/Holcim spoke, but the company held discussions with the Town of Coeymans, hoping to amend the draft law. Eventually, the Town Board decided to pass the law by the end of December 2018 without any changes. Learning of this, Mr. Dave Fletcher, Lafarge’s operations manager, asked to give a public presentation to the board on December 27, 2018.
In his comments, Mr. Fletcher said that the plant had no intention of burning municipal waste, but argued in favor of burning used tires, an established practice that has kept old tires out of landfill. In reply, Mike Ewall noted that Lafarge’s cement kiln in Whitehall, Pennsylvania burns tires and accounts for nearly half the industrial air pollution in Lehigh County. They are the number one emitter of eight toxins, including mercury and hydrochloric acid.
The Coeymans Town Board postponed their vote on the draft Clean Air Law until the 10th of January, when once again both supporters of the Town and of Lafarge came to speak. After listening to all the public comments, the five members of the Town Board were clearly skeptical of the company’s arguments. “We are not anti-Lafarge”, said one board member, but simply want to protect the health of people in Coeymans. The Board then voted to send the draft Clean Air Law to Albany County for review in order to avoid any possibility that the law could be challenged on procedural grounds. The Town expects to vote on the law by the end of February, 2019.
If passed, as expected, the Coeymans Clean Air Law will be the toughest local law in the USA limiting toxic emissions from the incineration of waste, including tires. For that reason, a number of people and organizations up and down the Hudson Valley are supporting this law as their towns are also being asked to approve waste incineration in cement plants and other industrial sites. Riverkeeper, Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, Sierra Club, and others are all urging the Town to Pass the Clean Air Law.
Many organizations added their names to a letter supporting the law from the Mohawk-Hudson River Watershed Protectors, an informal coalition. Their letter was submitted to the Town of Coeymans on 10 January, but if you want to add your name, please send an email to Barbara Heinzen (firstname.lastname@example.org ) or Grace Nichols (email@example.com ).
There will also be a postcard writing party at the Bethlehem Public Library on Monday 28 January.
WHEN: Mon 1/28, 6:00pm-8:00pm
WHERE: Bethlehem Public Library Community Room 451 Delaware Ave Delmar, NY.
RSVP: firstname.lastname@example.org, or cell: (518)258-5554
We’ll be asking for donations to cover the cost of the cards and mailing – 35 cents for postage and 25 cents for each card = 60 cents per card.
You can also write to the Town Board members directly. Their email addresses are on the Town’s website. The Town Supervisor is Phil Crandall.
Published in February-March 2019
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