ALBANY — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said it is satisfied with the Albany port District Commission’s response to its litany of concerns, clearing a lasting obstacle before construction can begin on the $350 million offshore wind turbine tower manufacturing facility project.
The port now waits on the Army Corps of Engineers to grant a dredging permit that will allow for construction on a 500-foot wharf. In all, the expansion plan will encompass approximately 624,000 square feet of manufacturing space, including five new buildings of which the largest will be a nearly 300,000-square-foot facility dedicated to plate preparation and welding.
The EPA lobbied the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers last June to withhold the port’s permit to start construction over its concerns for the environment, including its impact on area wetlands and animal habitats.
The agency balked against the proposed site, stating it would permanently impact nearly an acre of wetlands and damage another quarter acre of underwater grasses vital to aquatic habitats. It instead called for more studies to find an alternative location.
The two parties have since deliberated, with the port answering the agency’s initial concerns with a written response in July. Over the subsequent months, the port provided information substantiating the proposed location before a final meeting between the two last December.
“Following review of the applicant’s response, EPA determined the [port] has satisfactorily addressed EPA’s comments,” stated Richard Balla, a supervisor for the EPA’s watershed management branch, in a letter sent to the Army Corps of Engineers last month.
The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority first awarded the project to the port in 2021 as part of a massive green energy initiative involving $644 million from both public and private funding. The Port of Coeymans and several more sites across New York City and Long Island were also selected.
The port was awarded approximately $350 million in its bid to house the state’s first wind tower manufacturing site, selected in a joint bid from energy company Equinor, and wind industry manufacturers Marmen and Welcon.
It was considered to be the first step towards the state’s larger plan to establish a home base for a global wind energy manufacturing powerhouse, including two offshore wind farms that will yield a combined 2,490 megawatts of carbon-free energy, and bring another $8.9 billion in investments.
The state has promised approximately 5,200 new jobs will be created statewide, 350 of which will be in Albany.
The project is expected to expand the port as it is prepared to produce 150 off-shore wind towers and create up to 350 long-term jobs.
The project has been scrutinized locally. Neighboring residents have been concerned over how construction would affect over 2 million tons of fly ash left as waste on Beacon Island.
The property was previously used as a dumping site by the Bethlehem Energy Center power plant before the Port purchased the land several years ago. The neighboring power plant was once coal-fired from 1952 to 1970 before switching fuel oil and then to natural gas in 1981.
More than two dozen Glenmont residents filed an Article 78 proceeding against the Town of Bethlehem last June, claiming they were not adequately informed of the construction plan. In the suit, petitioners acknowledge the town’s planning and zoning boards provided notice to commercial entities within the mandated 200-foot radius of the project, but argue officials should have extended notices farther out. They say the scale of the project, including industrial noise, site view and potential increased traffic, should have called for broader attention.
Last November, a state Supreme Court judge listened to oral arguments from the suit, but no decision has been made as of yet.