Hudson plant debate

Hudson plant debate
Published: 05 January 2004

The longstanding debate over St Lawrence Cement's proposal to build a US$320 million cement plant about 20 miles from the Connecticut border in New York continues. Currently, the company, St. Lawrence Cement, is seeking a permit for the plant from New York's Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC)-the first of 17 permits the company needs. During the past few months, the two sides have wrangled over traffic and noise pollution. More "adjudication of issues" may be in store, if Erin Crotty, the DEC's commissioner, deems such a process necessary.  The major issues in the debate over the new plant, most of which haven't yet been fully addressed by the DEC judges, are threefold: the scale of the plant's proposed 405-foot tall smokestack; the jobs and local tax revenues the plant would or wouldn't create, and the reduction or increase in pollution. The two sides don't agree on any of these issues.

"Scale is certainly a problem," said a spokesman. "This will be the largest structure I know of between New York and Albany situated in one of the most historic and scenic areas in the country, recognized by every authority from the federal government to art historians as one of the cradles of American culture." However, there's no way that you can put a US$320m facility into a community and not have an economic benefit," said a proponent of the scheme. "Three studies were done, independent studies, and they all showed the exact same thing: that the project would create jobs and add to property tax rolls."

Pollution is perhaps the most important-and the most confusing-issue in the debate. Proponents cite 95 per cent reductions in lead and mercury emissions and an 85 per cent reduction in sulphur dioxide emissions. We are today at the Catskill facility emitting 73 to 74t a year total, the projection is 71t a year for the new plant. At Catskill we are permitted to emit over 14,000t, and here we're [seeking to be] permitted to emit 9,000t.

But the jury's still out on the plant, which filed its application for a permit from the DEC three years ago. And based on the time the DEC hearings have already taken up, it doesn't appear the St. Lawrence Cement plant question will be answered any time soon. "We think this project is going to be stopped, bottom line," said opponents. "St. Lawrence has none of their permits, and every day that goes by is a day they lose support. The more people know about the project, the less sense it makes. However proponents of the scheme say they are doing well in the battle to win over public support and expect all the permitting will be completed soon.