Sunday, April 24, 2005

Dancing in the streets of Hudson: a victory for democracy, community and environment in the Hudson Valley:
the stunning defeat of Saint Lawrence Cement’s Greenport Project

During the past six years I have joined thousands of friends and neighbors in Columbia County and the surrounding region in a tooth and nail fight against a proposal by Saint Lawrence Cement and its Swiss owned holding company, Holcim, to build a huge, $350 million coal fired cement plant near the city of Hudson in New York. Recently the state of New York weighed in, denying permits required for the building of this monstrosity. Now the company itself has pulled the plug, deciding not to appeal the decision.

When the plant was first announced in 1998 many people bought the company’s line that it was “a done deal” and “inevitable.” Fortunately, a small number of people, then a middle sized number and eventually many thousands replied: “Done deal? Who the hell says?” They gathered their forces, formed a strategy, raised money, attended hearings, held fund raisers, put up yard signs, talked to anyone who would listen, and, in general, did everything necessary to build a broad base of support and to put forth a reasonable message: the economy and environment of this region are already moving in a strong, prosperous “green” direction and would be seriously harmed by the building of the outsized, heavily polluting factory.

Soon I’ll write my thoughts here about this wonderful development and how it came to be. Basically, this has been the best conceived, best spirited and most effective social movement I’ve known. For now, I’ll simply post excerpts from two key stories – St. Lawrence Cement's press release on it’s decision to quit and last week’s decision by New York Secretary of State Randy Daniels, denying the company permits needed to for the project. The NYS decision is well worth reading, a strongly argued position that essentially endorses what Friends of Hudson and other groups have been saying all along.

Join the celebration!!!!

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[Press release, today]

St. Lawrence Cement Withdraws from Permitting Process in Greenport, New York

Hudson, NY, April 24, 2005 - In 1998, St. Lawrence Cement embarked on the permitting process to build a two-million tonne cement plant in Greenport, New York. The US$353 million plant aimed at replacing its cement plant presently in operation in nearby Catskill and securing the additional capacity to replace offshore imports.

Altogether, 17 federal, state and local permits and approvals were needed before construction could begin. Among the required permits, the New York State Department of State (DOS) certification was key to qualify for other approvals. On April 19, 2005, St. Lawrence Cement received a negative determination from the DOS, which ruled that the proposed plant was inconsistent with the state’s Coastal Zone Policies. The project’s configuration, size and location, as proposed, would affect the state’s coastal areas in a manner which is inconsistent with the state’s coastal policies.

Following careful review of the impacts of the DOS decision, the Board of Directors of St. Lawrence Cement has decided not to appeal the DOS decision and to withdraw the proposed replacement cement plant in Greenport, New York, from the permitting process.

‘’I wish to sincerely thank our supporters for their continuous encouragement in this undertaking and our employees who dedicated their efforts to move this project forward,’’ said Philippe Arto, President and CEO of St. Lawrence Cement.

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Albany Times Union

State rejects $350M cement plant, port
St. Lawrence proposal called detrimental to Hudson, Athens

By BRUCE A. SCRUTON, Staff writer
First published: Wednesday, April 20, 2005
ALBANY -- The state secretary of state has sunk plans for a multimillion-dollar cement plant and shipping port on the shores of the Hudson River, saying the project would ruin the economic rebound of Hudson and Athens.

The decision was released to St. Lawrence Cement Co., and some interested parties, after the close of business Tuesday. A copy of the 20-page decision was provided to the Times Union by Friends of Hudson, which opposed the project.

Daniel Odescalchi, a spokesman for St. Lawrence, said, "We're obviously disappointed" with the decision but noted "we do need to review this decision in detail" before deciding what to do next.

The Canadian-based company's options appear to be: drop the project, in which they have already invested about five years and $56 million; appeal the decision to the federal Department of Commerce; or address the concerns by submitting a retooled proposal.

But the language in the decision from Secretary of State Randy A. Daniels makes it clear there is little hope of getting a Hudson waterfront project approved.

"Rather than revitalize the waterfront, at its proposed scale, this shipping complex will dominate this and surrounding waterfront areas for the 50-60 year useful life of the industrial complex," Daniels wrote.

Because the Hudson River, up to Albany, is affected by tides, it is considered coastal and falls under federal regulations. The Department of Commerce has given states with coastlines the power to set management policies and have approval over projects on those shores.

Daniels said the project violates eight of the state's management policies, which cover areas such as visual impact, economic impact, noise levels and quality of life.

. . . .

Monday, April 04, 2005

Are things getting better? -- the idea of progress reconsidered

Which criteria would one use to decide? Which kinds of evidence? Which arguments could be offered to make a persuasive case?

The BBC takes note of a survey of scientists that finds future prospects rather dim.

"The most comprehensive survey ever into the state of the planet concludes that human activities threaten the Earth's ability to sustain future generations.

The report says the way society obtains its resources has caused irreversible changes that are degrading the natural processes that support life on Earth.

This will compromise efforts to address hunger, poverty and improve healthcare.

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) was drawn up by 1,300 researchers from 95 nations over four years."