St Lawrence Cement is likely to be required to include the Becraft Mountain mine in the environmental review for its new US$320m cement works in Greenport. Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) judges Helen Goldberger and Maria Villa recommended in a 46-page report that the DEC should “ungrandfather” the Becraft Mountain mine. “Grandfathering” is a process which allows companies to operate as if current laws were not in effect, because their operations predate the laws. In this case, the debate over the mine centres around the exemption of the existing mine from the environmental review as it has been in operation for decades, before applicable environmental legislation came into place.
Sam Pratt, executive director of pressure group Friends of Hudson said a full review of the project was necessary to ensure public health, safety and quality of life. Environmentalists fear the rarely used mine will be a hive of activity again if the new plant gets the green light.
However, St Lawrence maintains levels of use will remain the same and increased business will not affect the impacts on neighbours. Company spokesman Dan Odescalchi added that the decision is not expected to delay the environmental review for the works, which is to replace the nearby Catskill plant with more environmentally friendly production technology, according to supporters. The company also said in a written statement that “The Greenport plant is a replacement plant that will result in a significant benefit to our regional environment, and ungrandfathering the mine would only stand to delay these benefits”.
However, the decision is a recommendation to the state Department of Environmental Conservation and not a ruling. The ruling is to be made by DEC commissioner Erin Crotty. DEC spokesperson Matt Burns said there is no set timeline for the commissioner to rule on the grandfathering issue. His last ruling in December 2002, which gave rise to the hearings on this particular issue, was issued nearly a year after the judges’ recommendation.