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SLC Seeks Dramatic Increase in Truck Traffic LimitExpects as many as 265 round trips daily

HUDSON / ALBANY, N.Y. (OCT. 23, 2003) -- With company traffic estimates rising sharply twice in the past two weeks, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) staff have called for a postponement of the adjudicatory hearing scheduled for mid-November on traffic impacts from the proposed coal-fired St. Lawrence Cement (SLC) plant.

On Tuesday, DEC attorneys Lisa Wilkinson and Rebecca Denue circulated a memo to the two DEC Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) handling the hearing, requesting that deadlines for submitting pre-filed testimony on traffic be postponed, along with the traffic hearings themselves. Wilkinson and Denue wrote that:

“This request is based on the fact that Department Staff received a revised draft permit condition today, October 21, 2003, from St. Lawrence Cement (SLC), which changes the maximum number of individual truck trips per day from 120 to 265, based upon certain events.”

Originally, the company’s application estimated there would be an average of 90 round trips per day, with a maximum of 120. But on October 10th, St. Lawrence Cement filed a new traffic study which anticipates the plant needing 168 trucks making round trips daily. And on the 21st, the maximum jumped to 265, which translates to an upper limit of nearly 100,000 round trips per year, if the company’s barge facility were not permitted or out of service.

“These new numbers are more than two times higher than what SLC originally said the maximum number of trucks could be,” commented Friends of Hudson board president Peter Jung. “If SLC’s proposal were accepted, it would allow the plant to remain in full production even if its barge facility were inoperative, with no time limit — and the community would have to suffer the impacts from such a massive outflow of 25-ton trucks.”

Friends of Hudson lead attorney Jeffrey S. Baker of Young, Sommer..LLC has written to the two judges, Helene Goldberger and Maria Villa, supporting DEC staff’s request for time to analyze St. Lawrence’s new numbers. Friends executive director Sam Pratt noted that “With the hearings approaching fast, SLC keeps radically altering their traffic numbers. Each time they do, the numbers become more alarming.”

265 trucks per day would mean a truck leaving or entering SLC property every 2 minutes, 43 seconds. 168 trucks would mean one every 4 minutes, 17 seconds. Even the 120-round-trip maximum upheld by ALJs Goldberger and VIlla (and appealed by SLC) would mean one every 5 minutes, 9 seconds. These company numbers also don’t appear to take into account a potential major increase in Colarusso gravel trucks taking larger amounts of aggregate off SLC property.

While SLC indicates that this 265-truck limit would apply only to times when its barge facility is out of service, its terse submission to DEC mentions no limit on the amount of time the 265-truck number could be in play. “It could go on for weeks, or even permanently. What does ‘short-term’ mean,” asked Pratt. “St. Lawrence Cement has used overly rosy numbers throughout its application; now that trials are nearing, a starker reality is beginning to emerge. This shows why it is so essential that all the issues related to this proposal go to trial, because the numbers in the company’s application are not reliable. What numbers will they change next?”

Jung also cautioned that “These rapidly-changing numbers from SLC also demonstrate why it is so unwise for agencies such as the Hudson Planning Commission to withdraw from participating in the adjudicatory hearings. SLC is presenting a moving target, using numbers and promises that change from week to week.”

For copies of the entire DEC letter, SLC’s submission, and Friends of Hudson’s legal response thus far, please contact the Friends office at (518) 822-0334.