ALBANY — The state Department of Environmental Conservation removed Lafarge Holcim’s authorization to burn tire-derived fuel at its Ravena cement plant. DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos announced the decision on Wednesday, May 5, adding that the state came to the decision because the facility lacks the ability to do so.
“The Lafarge facility currently lacks the infrastructure to burn TDF, and has not, nor has it ever, completed the steps necessary to burn tires pursuant to this permit,” Seggos shared through an emailed statement last Wednesday.
The Switzerland-based company was targeted in two separate pieces of local legislation in recent years. Albany County passed a Clean Air bill last September. The verbiage closely resembled that of another law previously passed by the Town of Coeymans.
While local lawmakers pushed for stronger legislation over surrounding air quality, Lafarge Holcim argued that not only was TDF clean and safe, it was a permitted use authorized by the state under its Title V air permit.
After a dynamic change in town leadership, Coeymans modified its law last November to shift responsibility of policing air quality regulations back to the state and federal government. Lafarge Holcim had previously warned it would sue the town for preventing it from using TDF to power its $500 million kiln.
“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 merit of that threat became more evident when the company successfully fought to overturn a similar law in Baltimore, Maryland earlier last year. However, last week’s move by the DEC modifies Lafarge Holcim’s Title V air permit, removing authorization to burn TDF.
Albany County pursued its own legislation following a shift of political power in Coeymans led by Republican George D. McHugh 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.
“[The] DEC uses every tool at our disposal to ensure all of New York’s communities are protected,” Seggos said. “That is our goal and what drives everything we do and why we rigorously review every permit application and require compliance with stringent standards using the latest and best available science to ensure public health and the environment are protected.”
Two weeks ago, it was announced that Lafarge Holcim negotiated a $850,000 settlement agreement with federal and state officials surrounding alleged water quality violations that allowed leachate to reportedly flow into surrounding waterways.
The agreement, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York, requires Holcim to implement measures to prevent future violations and pay a $850,000 civil penalty, half of which will go to New York state. A portion of this payment will be used to fund a project designed to reduce the flow of pollution into the Hudson River.
Per the nature of the settlement the Switzerland-based cement company is absolved from guilt or liability from the allegations against it. The consent decree, however, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and must be finalized by court approval.
To view a copy of the consent decree and for information on how to submit a comment, visit www.justice.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html.