SOUTH GLENS FALLS — The Village Board is looking for partners in its quest to stop Lehigh Northeast Cement Co. from burning plastic.
The board was advised by its attorney Wednesday that the effort would be more successful if it could get Glens Falls and other municipalities on board.
The board wants to demand a hearing on the proposal to burn raggertail, a mix of plastic and paper. DEC agreed to extend the public comment period to Jan. 10, but not to allow a public hearing.
“There’s more force in numbers,” said village attorney Susan Bartkowski, suggesting that the village “combine forces with the city of Glens Falls.”
That might be easier said than done. Mayor Dan Hall only weighed in on the issue a day before the comment period ended in December — before it was reopened and extended.
While others were asking for 60 or 90-day extensions, or a public hearing, he only asked for a 30-day extension. And he has not agreed to talk about the issue. He has not returned any phone calls from reporters seeking comment, including a call left Thursday, although in December he did forward to the Post-Star an email in which he asked DEC for a public comment extension.
In that email, he did not commit himself on whether he opposed a permit requested by a city business than employs more than 100 people.
Instead, he asked what contaminants are in the plastic-paper mix and how are they regulated. He also asked if raggertail will be the only product permitted and whether the permit restricted where raggertail could be acquired for burning.
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“We would like more time to obtain the answers to these questions, to review the draft permit, and to provide meaningful comments before the permit is finalized by DEC,” he wrote.
South Glens Falls Village Board members want to persuade him to oppose the project. They’re worried that it’s a lost cause.
“We asked for 60 or 90 days. (DEC) didn’t even give 30. I think this is on the fast track to get approved,” said board member Tony Girard.
Board members have two experts that they could call at a public hearing – one who could evaluate the results from the day that Lehigh tested burning raggertail, and an attorney with expertise in these sorts of hearings.
They’re also ready to argue that they have not been given all the information they need to make detailed comments.
“I asked for airshed maps. They didn’t send airshed maps,” Mayor Harry Gutheil said.
He plans to send in a letter saying that the extension was “totally inadequate” and asking for a longer comment period, with a public hearing.
Lehigh has defended the raggertail as a better product for the environment than its current coal and gas.
“Lehigh’s air emissions with the use of raggertail as a partial substitute for coal and natural gas will remain well below allowable regulatory limits, which have been determined by federal and state regulators to be protective of human health and the environment,” said spokesman John Brodt in an emailed statement. “The use of this fuel will also reduce the plant’s operating costs, improve its competitiveness in a very challenging, global cement market, and continue to provide good-paying jobs for nearly 100 local people.”