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KEY AGENCY TO RULE ON CEMENT PLANT

Comment period quietly noticed on December 22nd

ALBANY -- A decision will be made on the massive, coal-fired St. Lawrence Cement proposal this spring by a key New York State agency, the Division of Coastal Resources. Just before Christmas, the agency quietly announced on the web its public comment period on the project, with all comments due by January 21st. The notice can be read online by clicking HERE.

Friends of Hudson has written a joint letter with our two main allies, the Hudson Valley Preservation Coalition and The Olana Partnership, encouraging the agency to expand public participation in its review through three key steps. The text of that letter follows below; much more on this topic will be posted shortly.

Those wishing to contact the agency immediately are encouraged to write to The New York State Department of State, Division of Coastal Resources, 41 State Street, Albany NY 12231, or fax your comments to (518) 473-2464.

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27 December 2004

The Honorable Randy A. Daniels
Secretary of State
New York State Department of State
41 State Street
Albany NY 12231

Dear Secretary Daniels:

On behalf of The Olana Partnership, the Hudson Valley Preservation Coalition and Friends of Hudson, we are writing regarding Public Notice #F-2004-0863 to respectfully request the following:

1) Public Access. We request that complete copies of the application materials be made widely available at area public libraries, on the web, and in CD-ROM format as soon as possible.

We are concerned that the applicant has not made these materials readily available at the outset of the comment period, as has been required by other review agencies. Few residents have the time necessary to make a special trip during their work week to Albany, or to file and wait for a FOIL request to be processed. Such obstacles effectively shorten and restrict the public comment period for most potential participants in this review process.

In this context, we also reiterate our position that the applicant's failure to provide simulations based upon the December 15, 2004 balloon flight as well as other critical information requested in prior communications with the Department (see letter of November 19, 2004, et al.), significantly impairs the public's ability to properly comment on this Notice. We therefore reiterate that the applicant should rectify
these omissions before public comment is sought.

We thus seek your agency’s help in ensuring that the applicant makes all necessary materials available in each of the formats noted above, and in publicly-accessible locations, without further delay so that our experts and members of the public can properly avail themselves of the opportunity to comment.

2) Extension of Comment Period. In view of our concerns about the availability of all necessary information to ensure full public review, and in view of the high level of public concern about this application, and furthermore due to the extraordinary scope of the proposal, we request that the public comment period be extended by 45 days from the dates that DOS determines that all documents are widely available for public review, or in any case to a date no sooner than March 1st, 2005.

We do not believe a 30-day comment period for a project of this magnitude and complexity is adequate. Moreover, since the notice was issued on the web shortly before the Christmas holiday weekend, that initial 30 days has effectively become less than 25 days. Such a truncated timeframe would prejudice the ability of citizens and groups to participate meaningfully in this review.

If provided, citizens will use this extension productively to fully digest the application before commenting. Likewise, our groups will require such time for the expert consultants which we have retained on this project to properly and fully address the substance of the application.

3) Public Hearing. Due to the extraordinary degree of public interest and concern about this proposal, we request that the Department of State hold a public hearing in the Hudson-Greenport area as part of the your process of forming a determination on this application.

Previous public hearings held by other agencies (such as NYS DEC and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) have drawn between 500-1,000 residents each. However, no such hearing has been held in almost two years; and to our knowledge the Department of State does not intend to rely upon those agencies’ records to make its own decision. In addition, some citizens may prefer to deliver comments verbally rather than in writing.

We therefore believe that a public hearing is essential to promote diverse and inclusive participation, and we suggest that one be held toward the end of the proposed extended comment period.

We appreciate your consideration of these requests, and look forward to hearing from you soon regarding your decisions on them.

Sincerely,

Sara Griffen, President
THE OLANA PARTNERSHIP
P.O. Box 199
Hudson NY 12534
(518) 828-0135

Sam Pratt, Executive Director
FRIENDS OF HUDSON
P.O. Box 326
Hudson NY 12534
(518) 822-0334

Ned Sullivan, President
Scenic Hudson / HVPC
1 Civic Center Plaza #200
Poughkeepsie NY 12601
(845) 473-4440

cc: Governor Pataki, et al.