GROUPS CALL ON STATE TO END SLC PROJECT
* Experts say sprawling facility fails to conform with Federal and State laws
* Riverfront blight, visual impacts, pollution, harm to Olana are key focus
* Engineers find that SLC plume could be more than twice as visible as claimed
ALBANY, N.Y. -- Adding expert research to a tidal wave of opposition from thousands of individual Valley residents, Friends of Hudson, The Hudson Valley Preservation Coalition (HVPC) and The Olana Partnership filed detailed technical analyses of St. Lawrence Cement's proposal for Columbia County on Friday, calling on the Pataki administration to put a final halt to the proposal.
Experts for the three groups conclude that the coal-fired cement project would jeopardize the protections outlined in the Department of State's coastal zone management program. CLICK HERE to download the joint Friends of Hudson/HPVC filing as an Acrobat (PDF) file.
"On the legal merits, as in the hearts and minds of Valley residents, St. Lawrence Cement has been boxed into a corner, "said Sam Pratt, executive director of the 4,100-member citizens group Friends of Hudson. "The facts, the public opposition, and the Governor's commitment to protecting the Hudson River provide ample grounds for DOS to stop this foolish project."
"The 360-degree views which played such an important part in Frederic Church's artistic vision would be impaired forever should this plant be deemed consistent by DOS, "said Sara Griffen, President of The Olana Partnership: "The map prepared by our visual expert to show plant visibility from Olana State Historic Site was striking and alarming. We have to believe DOS will see no other choice than to deny consistency and protect the scenic views that it is legally bound to do."
Ned Sullivan, president of Scenic Hudson, on behalf of the Hudson Valley Preservation Coalition said, "This area contains outstanding scenic, historic, and cultural resources related to, or situated in, the coastal region, including the highly coveted federal designations of an American Heritage River and National Heritage Area. These designations are so significant because they are already elevating the region's quality of life and economic opportunity and hold the promise of tremendous future possibilities."
34 exhibits are attached to a 75-page submission filed by jointly HVPC and Friends of Hudson before the agency's Friday's 4:30 pm deadline for public comments, presenting carefully-assembled evidence to back up the comments' findings. Authorities cited in the report on visual and historic impacts alone include world-renowned lighting expert Howard Brandston, visual consultant Terence J. Dewan & Associates, Marist economist Dr. Ann Davis, Vassar geography professor Harvey Flad, planner Peter J. Smith, planning and real estate consultant Ken Bowers, local historian Ruth Piwonka, redevelopment expert Norman Mintz, and noted curators and professors from major museums and educational institutions. The Olana Partnership filed its own separate 63-page brief, plus 24 attachments.
BLIGHTING OPERATIONS NOT COMPATIBLE WITH WATERFRONT
The joint submission also presents extensive research by legal and other experts showing that SLC's proposed facility would clearly detract from Hudson's and Athens' waterfront revitalization efforts. In addition to its sprawling manufacturing facility atop Becraft Mountain, the project would convert 14 acres in Hudson's South Bay (roughly one-third of the City waterfront) into a heavy industrial, highly polluting and disruptive land use that is incompatible with adjacent public waterfront activities.
The City of Hudson Waterfront Park, which opened in 2003 with State and Federal grant support, is providing important new access to the Hudson River to both Columbia County residents and also visitors to the City of Hudson. The park, which is slated to expand all the way southward to the proposed SLC barge facility, is especially important as a resource for low-income and minority communities in the City of Hudson. St. Lawrence Cement's blighting of the adjoining 14 acres would deny recreational opportunities to these citizens.
Both the City and the Village of Athens, which lies directly opposite Hudson on the western shore, have recognized the importance these waterfronts play to the health and prosperity of residents, dedicating great financial resources toward their revitalization. SLC's HudsonMax ships, conveyors, lights and industrial din from 24/7 operations would transform both waterfronts into an industrial eyesore for generations.
HARSH PUBLIC HEALTH IMPACTS AT WATERFRONT
Each of the 16 to 22 times annually that huge HudsonMax ships would arrive at the SLC dock, their engines would run continuously for between one-and-a-half to four days -- the equivalent of roughly one-quarter of the year. Residents on both sides of the river would be subjected to intolerable levels of noise and air pollution from these vessels, as well as numerous other ships, tugs, and breasting barges.
Moreover, the loading and unloading of raw materials such as gypsum and coal/coke would result in the health threat of high levels of fugitive dust at the waterfront and beyond. Fine particulate matter from both the ship's stacks and from the fugitive dust has not been adequately addressed by SLC, and would pose a clear risk to the health of citizens trying to enjoy access to the River.
CONCERN FOR MARINE SAFETY
The safety of recreational boaters would be jeopardized not only by the HudsonMax vessels but also by the frequent berthing barges and tugboat activity as well. Recreational boaters would find navigating around these massive vessels a challenge. For canoeists and kayakers, the prospect would be nothing short of dangerous. HVPC and Friends of Hudson also included supporting documents from boaters and captains in Friday's comments.
ENGINEERS: PLUME FAR WORSE THAN SLC CLAIMS
The Friday joint submission also includes reports from Friends of Hudson consultants at the nationally-noted industrial engineering firm Camp, Dresser & McKee, who demonstrate gross errors in SLC's plume estimates. CDM found that SLC's claims to Coastal Resources about the visibility and composition of its plume strangely "continue to rely upon a facially outdated 2001 Air Permit Application," ignoring design changes announced by the company itself in Fall 2004. The comments state that "the plume analysis by SLC is highly suspect and in fact the plumes created by this project are likely to be significantly greater than represented."
CDM engineers found that "SLC's report deliberately skews the results and minimizes the impacts of the plume." SLC contradicts itself on the use and impact of ammonia injections, and deliberately underestimates water content as 12% instead of 25%: "That more than doubling of the moisture content of the flue gas will have a huge impact on plume formation and significantly increase both the frequency and size of the plumes." A separate technology recommended by CDM, called Selective Catalytic Reduction, "not only is significantly better in the control of NOx, but also has a greatly reduced potential for plume formation."
PERVASIVE VISUAL BLIGHT
As proven by two state-required balloon launches which demonstrated the actual heights of multiple plant structures, SLC's mammoth facility would be visible for miles around, and would become the dominant visual structure throughout the area. This pervasive and overwhelming visual blight would severely impact the economic upturn being experienced by the City of Hudson and surrounding areas, without corresponding benefits from the project. An HVPC study released in January study showed that the City and County are benefitting tremendously from cleaner, more sustainable growth in the form of light manufacturing facilities, high-tech businesses, galleries, restaurants and retailers, adding to a long-term boom in construction and renovation-business related to a surging real estate market.
Additionally, with the lower stack height incorporated into the new design, the plume from the stack would contain more moisture and therefore be more visible. SLC's own visual analysis recognizes the significant visual impact from this plant.
HARM TO OLANA STATE HISTORIC SITE
Other major arguments made in The Olana Partnership's submission include another study by CDM, which compares the plume at the proposed plant with that of the Athens Generating Plant. In that precedent-setting case, DOS originally declared the Athens project inconsistent based in large part upon the visibility of its projected plume. The agency later approved Athens Gen only after a change to a dry cooling technology, which the company promised would eliminate plumes entirely. The CDM study shows that the proposed SLC plant's plume would be far longer and occur far more often than the projected Athens plume which it deemed inconsistent; and the cement industry cannot use dry cooling to eliminate plumes.
TOP's submission also includes a section discussing the visual offsets proposed by SLC. TOP's experts and attorney John Caffry concluded that "SLC's proposed offsets are woefully inadequate and do not make up for the impacts that the proposed Greenport facility will have on Olana." The physical structures which would be removed at Catskill are hardly visible from Olana, while the structures at the old Atlas plant -- defunct since the mid-1970s -- should have been removed decades ago by the very company which now advertises itself as a good corporate citizen.
SLC proposes to dredge approximately 62,000 cubic yards of river bottom affecting over six acres of Hudson River bottom, resulting in untold harm to aquatic resources. The company's limited fish and submerged aquatic vegetation surveys, with few specimens included and documented in a very narrow seasonal scope does not come close to adequately addressing the ramifications to marine wildlife and habitat.
The groups' comments also cite the doubts among the scientific and regulatory community about SLC's proposals to offset the many harsh impacts of its proposal. For example, The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation has questioned the adequacy of the company's proposal to create a trail and lookout point as a form of mitigation. DEC requested an analysis of the species found in the park area as well as information on the potential impacts the development of the park might have on the wildlife in the area, but this information has not been forthcoming as yet. The agency wrote that this mitigation proposal "apparently will play no role in replacing lost functions and values of the habitats that will be destroyed." Certain rare species, including nesting Cooper's hawk and the nesting map turtle could be present in the area and would be harmed by the recommended mitigation.
PROCESS AND NEXT STEPS
The Department of State's Division of Coastal Resources Department has indicated that it intends to make a determination no later than April 22, 2005, six months from the day SLC refiled its application with the agency. If the agency finds the proposal to be inconsistent with the State's 44 Coastal Policies, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers then cannot issue permits to the project regardless of the outcome of other permitting reviews. If Coastal Resources were to approve the project, the company would still need to obtain 16 other permits and approvals from 11 other local, County, State and Federal agencies, and would face years more review and potential litigation.
UNITED OPPOSITION FROM GROUPS AND CITIZENS
Three distinct but united groups have each received full party status in the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation's own review of SLC's permit applications for the proposed industrial and mining complex in Columbia County: Friends of Hudson, The Hudson Valley Preservation Coalition (coordinated by Scenic Hudson), and The Olana Partnership.
These leading environmental groups of the Hudson Valley and numerous organizations from nearby Connecticut and Massachusetts are working together to defeat this proposed project. In addition, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Preservation League of New York State each have amicus status in the DEC's proceedings, which are separate from the current DOS review.