SLC-HOLCIM PROJECT REJECTED BY N.Y. STATE
* Canadian company has spent $57.9 million on failed U.S. campaign
* SLC stock trading halted temporarily on Wednesday; shares slip 7%
* State administration and local officials deliver one-two punch
[Note: The following release has gone out to the Swiss and Canadian press]
ALBANY, NEW YORK (U.S.) -- A proposal by the Montreal-based St. Lawrence Cement company to build a massive, coal-fired facility in New York’s historic Hudson Valley was dealt two stinging and decisive blows this week.
On Tuesday night, New York Secretary of State Randy Daniels issued a strongly-worded decision Tuesday night which declared the SLC project inconsistent with eight key State policies designed to protect the Hudson River from inappropriate development. Without New York’s approval, which came after extensive review of the project by the state’s Division of Coastal Resources, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers cannot issue permits for the project, and SLC cannot build.
The same evening, local officials in the City of Hudson voted 7-3 to reject a proposed “Host Community Agreement” with St. Lawrence Cement, which would have traded a $200,000-per-year payment to this small city of 7,500 residents in exchange for endorsement of the company’s plans, as well as grandfathering from future local laws and other protections for the company. Prior to the vote, SLC had claimed to have the support of local officials.
The State’s ruling found that the scale and impacts of the coal-fired project were inappropriate at the chosen location, whose 40-story stack and 1,200-acre mine would have been sited within a mile of a regional hospital and dense residential neighborhoods, within the viewshed of Olana State Historic site, and with potentially harsh visual and health impacts. In addition, the project’s vast barge facility would have included open piles of coal and enormous barges immediately abutting a new public park where City, State and Federal agencies have invested millions of dollars in restoration efforts.
COMPANY HAS SPENT $58 MILLION, BUT MAKES NO PROGRESS
Despite some $57,900,0000 in capital expenditures on the project, which are disclosed in the company’s recently-issued 2004 Annual Report, St. Lawrence has failed to obtain any of the 17 permits and approvals from a dozen local, County and State, Federal agencies over the past 6 years. SLC announced the 2,000,000 ton-per-year project to shareholders in September 1998.
St. Lawrence is a subsidiary of the Swiss multinational giant Holcim, Ltd., the second largest cement manufacturer in the world, which controls some two-thirds of St. Lawrence stock. Trading in SLC shares was halted for several hours on the Toronto Stock Exchange before the news broke, with the stock losing over 7% of its value on Wednesday when that hold was lifted.
GROUPS AND CITIZENS CALL ON SLC TO FORMALLY WITHDRAW
“We call on St. Lawrence management in Canada, as well as its Swiss owners, to face the facts and withdraw all its remaining permit applications,” said Sam Pratt, executive director of Friends of Hudson, a local citizens group which grew from 40 to over 4,000 members during the six-year controversy. Pratt added that “If the company’s local project team tries to sell its board on wasting millions more on this project in the wake of such decisive rulings, shareholders understandably would have to ask how and why U.S. vice president Dennis Skidmore and his attorneys at LeBoeuf, Lamb can possibly justify continuing to seek funding for a lost cause.”
“New York State stated its vision for Hudson River waterfronts: a departure from heavy industry and a welcoming of mixed uses that includes commercial, residential, tourism water-dependent recreation and public access,” said Alix Gerosa, Director of Environmental Quality for Scenic Hudson and the Coordinator of the Hudson Valley Preservation Coalition. “The SLC proposal would contradict that goal. This should be a clear signal to SLC regarding the fate of this proposal.”
“The Olana Partnership lauds the Department State for recognizing the critical importance of protecting our historic sites, landscapes and views,” said Sara Griffen, president of TOP. “This protection is crucial not only for passing on our generations, but for providing a strong economic engine in the form of tourism and a richer quality of life that attracts the right kinds of business to our community.” Olana is the home of famed landscape painter Frederic Edwin Church, credited as the master of America’s first school of painting, the Hudson River of painting.
BUSINESS LEADERS AND OFFICIALS SIDE WITH OPPOSITION
Opposition to the project has been mounted not only by 35 environmental and conservation groups, but also by business leaders, private citizens and public officials in New York and New England. Neighboring states threatened to sue New York if it permitted a new coal-burning facility to be sited within 15-20 miles of their borders, with State regulators in Massachusetts and Connecticut supporting opponents’ position that the plant design would not protect human health. In addition, editorial boards throughout the Northeast opposed the project, including major newspapers such as The New York Times, The Boston Globe, and the Hartford Courant as well as many regional papers.
Leading up to the decision, the NYS Department of State’s Division of Coastal Resources received a record 14,000 public comments on the proposal in recent months—with 87% of them opposed to SLC’s plans. While many elected officials wrote in opposition, not a single one wrote in support of the company. In addition, more than 200 business owners representing 1,200 full-time and 450 part-time jobs in the region also called for the project’s demise, with Chamber of Commerce members applauding Secretary Daniels at a breakfast meeting Wednesay morning.
While St. Lawrence Cement could theoretically appeal the decision to the U.S. federal government, legal analysts who have reviewed the decision and relevant precedents say that the chances of a reversal are slim to none—especially as Daniels and New York Governor George Pataki are, like President Bush, Republicans. Regardless of party loyalty, the decision is strongly reasoned, and great deference is given to State agencies when such appeals are considered.
# # #
A copy of the ruling can be downloaded by clicking HERE