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Friends and allies score two new legal victories

* EnCon staff instruct SLC to consider new pollution control technologies identified by Friends engineers

* Law judges deny SLC attempt to supervise opponents?? noise study

ALBANY, N.Y. -- Having recently succeeded in convincing two judges to "ungrandfather" the St. Lawrence Cement mine on Becraft Mountain, intervenors have prevailed in two other legal skirmishes over the massive, coal-fired plant proposed for Greenport and Hudson in Columbia County.

In a letter dated July 29, 2003, New York State Dept. of Environmental Conservation (DEC) project manager Michael Higgins notified St. Lawrence that it must update its application materials "to reflect the most recent information available on NOx [nitrogen oxide] emission control technology for portland cement plants."

The DEC staff letter upholds a recommendation made by Friends of Hudson consultants Gabriel Miller and Frank Sapienza of Camp Dresser & McKee (CDM), a major East Coast engineering firm. The company seeks permits for the Greenport plant to emit over 8,000,000 pounds annually of NOx, which the U.S. EPA defines as "a highly reactive gas formed when fuel is burned at high temperatures" that results in ground-level ozone (smog), acid rain, respiratory problems, global warming, and lower water quality, among other impacts. Opponents of the plant have found that its proposed NOx controls are substandard.

"Our engineers found compelling evidence that the plant??s design is not actually state-of-the-art," said Friends of Hudson executive director Sam Pratt, "and we appreciate the DEC staff's responsiveness. With the health of residents at stake, the State and citizens share an obvious interest in holding polluters to the highest standard. We're not too surprised that St. Lawrence tried to shirk their duty to keep up with the times, but we're relieved that their lawyers failed in the attempt."

Mirroring the motion submitted by Friends of Hudson in January of this year, Higgins specifically requests by August 29th "that SLC include in its analysis a detailed evaluation of Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) technology and its use at the Solnhofer plant in Germany," cited by CDM in its report, as well as combinations of existing technologies. SLC attorneys had vociferously opposed such an analysis in both the media and in legal briefs sent to DEC. However, Friends of Hudson's motion received considerable independent support, including a review by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.

"Once again, the analysis by our experts has proved more substantial than St. Lawrence Cement's attempts to obstruct a proper review," said Friends board president Peter Jung. "This victory shows Friends of Hudson's ongoing commitment to proving our case within the process, which SLC has wrongly tried to circumvent."

In a second decision, DEC Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) Helene Goldberger and Maria Villa denied a motion by St. Lawrence Cement's attorneys, through which the company sought to supervise and potentially interfere with opponents' noise monitoring tests, to be conducted in advance of trials ("adjudicatory hearings") on noise impacts this Fall.

The Hudson Valley Preservation Coalition (HVPC) and Friends of Hudson have retained experts to determine ambient noise levels around the company??s proposed 1,200-acre mine and also at the waterfront. The ALJs wrote to St. Lawrence's lead attorney Thomas West that "upon review of the regulations and precedent and consideration of the parties' arguments, we have concluded that we have no basis in these circumstances to order the intervenors to provide access to the applicant to observe their noise monitoring."

"This was just gratuitous legal harassment by SLC, and we're glad the judges saw through it," Pratt commented on the August 4th decision. "The company wanted to interfere with our experts' objective research, whose results and methods will be made fully available to SLC in the normal review process. But if SLC knew in advance exactly when and where we were testing for noise, they could easily skew the results with extra activity."

St. Lawrence has never allowed opposing experts to supervise the company's private testing, and in some cases has been reluctant to release test results.