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Mass. DEP agrees with Friends engineering report: Agency finds that St. Lawrence Cement’s plant design would not attain lowest achievable emissions rate, and calls on New York to require new technology

HUDSON, N.Y. -- A new letter and review by officials in the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MADEP) agrees with findings in a recent report from Friends of Hudson’s engineering consultants at Camp, Dresser and McKee (CDM).

The letter calls upon MADEP’s counterparts in the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) to follow the recommendation of opponents’ engineers at CDM, who identified a more effective pollution control technology for the St. Lawrence Cement proposal in Columbia County.

In February of this year, Friends of Hudson legal counsel submitted CDM’s findings to NYSDEC that a German cement company had successfully adapted Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR), a technology proven effective for coal-fired power plants, for use in cement plants. The result for the St. Lawrence Cement proposal would be the elimination of 1,800 tons per year of nitrogen oxides (NOx).

The April 17, 2003 letter from Robert E. Bell, Chief Regional Counsel for MADEP, was addressed to Michael Higgins, NYSDEC project manager for the St. Lawrence Cement proposal, and copied to other officials in both states along with U.S. EPA. Bell wrote that “despite our strenuous efforts and progress over the years, Massachusetts in in non-attainment of the 1-hour zone standard,” noting that: “Among these measures are efforts to fully apply the new source review program to sources in upwind states... For the reasons outlined above and in the attached Memorandum from engineers experienced in air quality permit review and issuance including coal-fired facilities, we believe SCR represents LAER for controlling NOx from the Greenport project.”

The memorandum from MADEP’s engineers in turn states that: "We analyzed the report on its technical merit and on its regulatory interpretation... Based on our experience, the CDM report is substantially correct in regard to the Lowest Achievable Emission Rate (LAER) applicability and standard. "

Friends of Hudson executive director Sam Pratt welcomed MADEP’s support, which came as a pleasant surprise to the group: “SLC has consistently tried to cut corners on this project, so we’re naturally pleased that a major government agency has independently confirmed our engineers’ findings. New York can’t sue Midwestern states for failing to use state-of-the-art technology in their coal-fired plants, yet then expect our Eastern neighbors to tolerate the same thing near the Berkshire-Litchfield border.”

Pratt also added that “Friends of Hudson frankly has little faith in SLC’s ability to run any type of plant safely, based on their track record. At the same time, we are committed to working within the permitting process, and will continue to hold SLC to the letter of the law at every step of that process.”