Representatives of St. Lawrence Cement and the group Friends of Hudson offered diametrically opposing views at a forum Wednesday on the potential effects a proposed cement manufacturing facility on the region’s environment. About 80 people turned out for the event at the Rhinebeck Town Hall, which was organized by Dutchess County Legislator Joel Tyner, D-Clinton/Rhinebeck.
At Wednesday’s forum, Dan Odescalchi, a spokesman for St. Lawrence Cement, and Sam Pratt, the executive director of Friend of Hudson, a group formed in opposition to the project, again staked out their positions on the project. As expected, the two sides agreed with very little of the information each offered.
St. Lawrence Cement Co. has proposed a $320 million cement manufacturing plant on 1,782 acres mostly in the town of Greenport, Columbia County, south of Hudson and across the Hudson River from the Greene County town of Athens. The new plant would replace most of St. Lawrence’s operations at its existing plant in Greene County.
The project has generated a significant amount of controversy in Columbia County, as well as elsewhere in the region, including Connecticut and Massachusetts. A number of environmental groups, including Scenic Hudson, the Environmental Defense Fund, and Hudson Riverkeeper, oppose the new plant.
Often throughout the two-hour forum, Pratt and Friends of Hudson attorney Jeffrey Baker challenged Odescalchi’s comments, and questioned the integrity of the company proposing to construct the facility.
"What we’ve found, time and time again, was that there were problems, major problems, with the track record of this company," said Pratt. Baker, meanwhile, said the company told "significant lies" in its attempt to get approval for the project.
Odescalchi said St. Lawrence has always supported community activities through financial contributions; Pratt called those donations "blackmail." Odescalchi said that the air emission figures quoted by Pratt are misleading because they compare actual air emissions from the company’s existing Catskill plant, which will be shut when the Hudson plant is opened, to the permitted emission levels being sought for the new plant. Odescalchi said that those permitted levels are significantly higher than the actual levels that will be emitted from the new facility.