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* Coastal agency receives nearly 14,000 comments on cement plant proposal

* Opponents outnumber supporters 87%-13%, submitting a tidal wave of personal and detailed letters

* A striking lack of Columbia County letters in support of SLC; company relies on form letters from out of area

* Assemblyman Manning is among public officials opposing coal-burning plant, along with 35 organizations

ALBANY (N.Y.) -- Out of 13,663 comments received and tallied by staff of the NYS Department of State's Division of Coastal resources, 11,843 were against the massive, coal fired St. Lawrence Cement plant=97with just 1,820 in favor, and with remarkably few pro-plant comments from local residents.

The 87%-13% result, which includes letters, postcards and faxes, is based on a count made by DOS staff, disclosed after a request by representatives of intervenor groups on Friday during a scheduled visit to inspect the comment files. These figures do not include an estimated 17,000 petitions filed separately by Friends of Hudson.


The agency's file of letters from public officials against the plant includes Assemblyman Patrick Manning, whose letter to Secretary of State Randy Daniels stated: "I urge you to protect the lives and livelihood of my constituents in the 103rd District, and with them the Governor's strong legacy of supporting public health, scenic views, and sustainable growth in the Hudson Valley, by issuing a definitive denial of St. Lawrence Cement' inappropriate proposal."

In Hudson's 1st Ward, where SLC has proposed its waterfront activities, both aldermen Colum Riley and Robert O'Brien wrote against the project. Other officials in the region opposed to the plant were well-represented, for example The Village of Athens, Town of New Paltz, Berkshire County State Rep Smitty Pignatelli, Chatham Village Trustee Lael Locke, Dutchess County Legislator Joel Tyner, and Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal.

The agency has also collected comments from organizations, with at least 35 groups on record as opposed to the plant. In addition to Friends of Hudson, The Olana Partnership, and the Hudson Valley Preservation Coalition (led by Scenic Hudson, and comprising 21 groups), letters against SLC were received from the Preservation League of New York State and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and:

Berkshire Environmental Action Team Berkshire Natural Resources Council Center for Ecological Technology Citizens for a Healthy Environment Citizens for the Hudson Valley Drayton Hall Friends of the Nyacks Germantown Neighbors Association Hudson Antiques Dealers Association Hispanic American Group Historic Hudson Historic Hudson Valley Housatonic River Initiative Hudson River Sloop Clearwater National Resources Defense Council Riverkeeper Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter The South Bay Project Students Concerned About Planet Earth

In addition, the agency received a large volume of comments against the plant from the business and medical communities, for example a "Statement of Values" now signed by more than 200 area businesses, a supplementary petition from doctors on the medical staff of Columbia Memorial Hospital (which have voted twice against the plant), a separate petition of 48 doctors in Berkshire County gathered by Berkshire Pediatrics Associates, and a letter from Irwin M. Berlin, MD, Chief of the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine.


Particularly striking is the absence of personal letters in support of the plant, with only a smattering of non-form letters in favor=97and a telling lack of pro-plant letters from Columbia County residents. The 13% of comments in favor appear almost exclusively on one of 3 or 4 different forms, evidently created by SLC.

"It looks like St. Lawrence became concerned about their poor showing in the last few weeks, going to union halls out of the area to get their numbers up. We saw pro-plant letters from the Bronx, New Jersey, Long Island and Fort Ann. Besides SLC staff and their spouses in the area, we saw less than 30 letters from local residents in favor," noted Warren Collins of The Olana Partnership, who inspected the agency's comment file along with Friends of Hudson executive director Sam Pratt.

"Also, many of SLC's form letters bear only a barely-readable signature, with no address or other verifiable information," Collins added. By contrast, many who wrote against the plant (such as Claverack resident Ian Nitschke and Hudson resident Don Christensen) filed large volumes of historical and technical research, while others included photographs of their families, homes and even pets.

"It was amazing to see the volume, quality, detail and passion of the comments against the plant," Pratt commented after the visit. "Opponents rose to the occasion, making their positions known in both sheer numbers and also in highly personal and well-informed letters. Despite an orchestrated effort by SLC, the company has clearly lost local support in terms of both numbers and intensity."

"It is clear that Hudson Valley residents, business owners, elected officials and organizations all agree that the SLC proposed cement plant is out of place and character to this beloved region," said Alix Gerosa, Director of Environmental Quality, Scenic Hudson, coordinator of the Hudson Valley Preservation Coalition. "The pollution, visual, traffic and blasting impacts outweigh the paltry economic impacts (one new job and no new net spending in the region)." The agency's public comment period on the project ended March 18th, and a decision is expected no later than April 22nd, six months after the company refiled its Coastal Consistency application.