CROTTY COMES THROUGH: RULINGS SLAM SLC
ALBANY, 8 SEPT. 2004 -- DEC Commissioner Erin Crotty issued three strong rulings today, denying St. Lawrence Cement's unusual request for a delay, ungrandfathering SLC's mine, and calling for full "adjudication" of key remaining issues regarding the company's massive, coal-fired plant proposal in Columbia County.
Click HERE for a list of links to coverage of this major decision in The New York Times, the Albany TImes-Union, Poughkeepsie Journal, and other media outlets.
STATEMENT BY ATTORNEY JEFF BAKER | Young, Sommer..LLC
"The Commissioner has found that we met our burden on all the issues for adjudication. As in previous adjudication of noise, traffic and mining, we will demonstrate that St. Lawrence Cement has grossly understated the impacts of its proposal, and we have every reason to expect that pattern will continue. We will now be entitled to get full discovery of all SLC's information, and to cross-examine their experts. And we will demonstrate that SLC cannot meet the environmental standards, and therefore must be denied permits."
STATEMENT BY SAM PRATT | Exec. Director, Friends of Hudson
"We have always said that on a level playing field, St. Lawrence Cement will lose. That's why St. Lawrence Cement has tried to tilt the process in its favor with lobbying, public relations and saturation advertising. What the Commissioner has done today is to give opponents that level playing field we've asked for -- and made clear to the company that it's got a long, hard road ahead, with little certainty of success. When the company assumed back in Fall 1998 that it would sail through the process based on political muscle and public relations, it made a major miscalculation. Today's ruling is testament to the sustained efforts dozens of organizations, the highest-quality experts, and thousands of committed citizens whose opposition to this project is stronger than ever."
UNGRANDFATHERING OF THE MINE
Commissioner Crotty agreed with Administrative Law Judges Helene Goldberger and Maria Villa, and with plant opponents, that impacts related to St. Lawrence Cement's proposed mining of Becraft Mountain are, in fact, subject to review under the State Environmental Quality Review Act -- contrary to SLC's attempts to exempt the mining of millions of tons of stone from review.
ISSUES TO ADJUDICATE | List in progress
Adjudication is a trial, with sworn testimony and cross-examination, before the two DEC judges assigned to this issue, who then make a recommendation to the Commissioner on whether the project should be approved, modified, or denied. (Mining, noise and traffic adjudication has already taken place, but no recommendations have been made on the latter two.) The other issues to adjudicate now will be:
• Air: Modeling of fine particulate (PM 10) impacts
• Air: Impacts of ultrafine particulates (PM 2.5)
• Air: Fugitive Dust impacts
• Air: Use of a Regenative Thermal Oxidizer to control VOCs
• Air: NOx limits under the LAER standard
• Marine Habitat / Wetland impacts
• Visual Impacts
• Coastal Zone Consistency — Community Character
• Historic Resources
You can read these rulings in full at the DEC's website by clicking HERE.
ABOUT THE PROCESS
This very favorable Commissioner's ruling sets forth a much clearer path for the process, and one which seems fair to opponents. If SLC decides to go ahead with its proposed changes announced in August 2004, this is likely to re-open some or all of the above issues for even more detailed examination. While SLC says it will not appeal the mining ruling "at this time," it seems likely it may do so, especially as it may face some statutes of limitations to appeal. Presumbably, the schedule for and order in which these issues will go to trial will be set by the two DEC administrative law judges assigned to the project, Helene Goldberger and Maria Villa, in coming weeks.
Adjudication is often preceded by haggling over schedules and ground rules, a potentially lengthy "discovery" period in which parties share documents, pre-filed testimony, the hearings themselves (which can run for weeks), and post-hearing briefs. At the end, the judges make a recommendation to the Commissioner, who must then either uphold, modify or overrule the judges.
SUPPORT OUR WORK
This ruling today validates years of work by our lawyers, engineers, and other experts, and the strong commitment of thousands of citizens to stop this dangerous project. It also demonstrates that St. Lawrence Cement no longer calls the shots in Albany, and that opponents have an opportunity to stop SLC on the merits. Making that case requires tremendous resources and your financial support of Friends of Hudson will continue to ensure that St. Lawrence Cement is subjected to the highest level of scrutiny in the process that will now unfold. Please send a new, tax-deductible donation today via the address below, or donate securely online by clicking HERE.
Friends of Hudson
P.O. Box 326
Hudson NY 12534