NYSERDA presentation falls flat

Residents say efficiency measures inappropriate to community's safety concerns

A group of residents concerned with emissions coming from the Lafarge cement plant in Ravena had little interest in information presented by officials from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

The crowd, expecting to hear how a $490,000 settlement from the cement company would go toward controlling emissions at the plant or monitoring air quality at the Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk high and middle schools just across the street, instead heard presentations about energy-efficient boilers and take-home science kits for students.

This was totally inappropriate, said Joan Ross of New Baltimore, after walking out during the Tuesday night, Aug. 24, presentation at RCS. "It's inappropriate for the problems this community is facing."

Lafarge North America operates two cement kilns, powered by coal, off of Route 9W, less than a half-mile from RCS High School. Debate over the air quality issues and safety of the plant's proximity to the school and the surrounding neighborhoods has raged for years. The funds are a result of a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois by that state's Attorney General and those of 12 states, alleging violations of the Clean Air Act related to nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide output. The settlement requires Lafarge to install control technologies that reduce emissions of nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide and further requires Lafarge to pay a civil penalty of more than $5 million to the states and the Department of Justice. Of that, New York received $490,000 for the benefit of the communities impacted by the cement plant.

David Prior, an assistant counsel for NYSERDA, said the programs presented to the public at RCS were chosen because of their feasibility and because of NYSERDA's purview. "These are the projects that we're recommending and that we have the authority to implement," said Prior.

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