COEYMANS — Protestors clamoring outside could be heard from inside Town Hall as board members prepared to amend its Clean Air Law from a year ago.
Once Police Chief Daniel Contento finished phoning in his report, George D. McHugh asked if he could do something about the noise level.
“It doesn’t really bother me, but I am getting text messages from some of the neighbors,” said McHugh. “They’re a little concerned.”
There was no response.
The Town Board unanimously passed the amendments to its Clean Air Law on Monday, Nov. 23, as about 50 residents protested outside Coeymans Town Hall. Last week’s edition of The Spotlight went to print prior to the town meeting.
“I’ve never seen an issue where people are so confused,” said McHugh. “It is simply not feasible and it’s not practical for a local government to take responsibility for monitoring and regulating air emissions and air quality.”
The amendments still prevent hazardous and medical waste from being processed within town limits. It also states that no amount of waste can be considered a fuel source “unless approved and permitted” by the state DEC or federal EPA.
McHugh had previously said that his town has neither the money nor the means to enforce its Clean Air Law and would rather leave the matter up to the scientists and professionals on the state and federal level.
LafargeHolcim had previously warned it would sue the town for preventing it from using tire derived fuel to power its $500 million kiln. The merit of that threat became more evident when the company successfully fought to overturn a similar law in Baltimore, Maryland earlier this year.
“This illegal law will be overturned,” Lafarge wrote to Coeymans. “We intend to vigorously defend our permits and our rights by any legal means necessary. Guide yourselves accordingly.”
The Switzerland-based company had received a DEC permit to burn tires at its cement processing plant in Ravena. Before it was to start incinerating municipal trash imported from Connecticut, the Town of Coeymans passed legislation against it.
A similar law in Baltimore, Maryland was successfully overturned in lawsuit in March. That decision, McHugh read to the board, determined that the city’s legislation “second guesses” federal regulations and conflicted against state and federal permits.
Opponents who have spoken against the amendment said the issue was more political.
Albany County pursued its own legislation following a shift of political power in Coeymans led by McHugh and his Coeymans Comeback Team. Then-Supervisor Philip Crandall, a Democrat, feared such a switch would lead to a repeal of the town law.
The town board swung Republican after McHugh and his two running mates, Zachary Collins and Brandon LeFevre, earned seats in last November’s election. The shift to Republican leadership was reflected on the county level, too, when former Coeymans Town Board member George Langdon beat Democrat incumbent Richard Touchette.