News > News > Preserve River Ecology > DEC denies essential permits for proposed waste facility on the Hudson in Rensselaer

DEC denies essential permits for proposed waste facility on the Hudson in Rensselaer

Riverkeeper applauds the DEC’s decision and urges the agency to maintain its position in the event of an appeal.

RENSSELAER, N.Y. — Riverkeeper applauds the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation for its decision this week to deny two essential permits for a proposed waste processing facility that would sit on top of a capped toxic waste site next to the Hudson River – and urges the agency to maintain its position in the event of an appeal.

The Department of Environmental Conservation has denied both the Air State Facility and Solid Waste Management permit applications submitted by Rensselaer Resource Recovery LLC, a subsidiary of BioHiTech Global, in light of the applicant’s demand for an immediate decision. DEC rightly found that an approval at this time would undercut its regulatory responsibilities and improperly circumvent a meaningful environmental review.

BioHiTech, in a news article Wednesday, expressed its intent to appeal the decision. The proposed project should not be allowed to move forward until its environmental impacts are properly and thoroughly examined.

The proposed facility raises numerous, serious concerns for the river, the environment and the surrounding community. Submitted to the city in 2018, the proposal received only an abbreviated environmental review by the City of Rensselaer Planning Commission. In 2019, the DEC expressed “grave concerns” to the previous mayor of Rensselaer, saying, “it is unclear how the City of Rensselaer could have determined that the Project does not involve at least one potential significant adverse impact.” Current Mayor Michael Stammel has expressed his commitment to ensuring a thorough environmental review is completed.

In June of this year, Riverkeeper joined community partners in opposing the project.

David Ellis, Rensselaer Environmental Coalition Chairman, said:
“The Rensselaer Environmental Coalition applauds the steps taken by the New York State DEC to put a freeze on BioHiTech’s waste facility in the City of Rensselaer. Since day one, BioHiTech has sidestepped major environmental requirements. DEC’s actions will help to bring much needed environmental justice to the City of Rensselaer. Mayor Mike Stammel has also been highly vocal on these issues and has been working closely with the Planning Board to bring better protections for our residents. The teamwork from all forms of government is vital to the health and safety of our community.”

Read more in the Coalition’s news release:
Rensselaer Environmental Coalition applauds DEC decision denying permits for Rensselaer trash facility
This facility was sited in the wrong place at the wrong time as the Rensselaer community continues to suffer from the many impacts of the Dunn C&D Landfill.

Hear David Ellis in an interview with Media Sanctuary.

Victoria Leung, Riverkeeper Associate Staff Attorney, said:
“We appreciate DEC’s decision towards rectifying the many procedural deficiencies that have occurred in this project’s approval process. Riverkeeper hopes that the Rensselaer Planning Commission and DEC will take this opportunity to ensure that a proper environmental review is conducted, and all impacts addressed. The Rensselaer community’s existing environmental burden must not be increased.”

Judith Enck, former EPA Regional Administrator, said:
“This is a responsible decision by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation to deny solid waste and air pollution permits for the controversial BioHiTech waste project, proposed to be built on top of a toxic waste site on the banks of the Hudson River. This project never made any environmental sense, and the state DEC action is a body blow to the future of this project. Mayor Michael Stammel and the DEC did the right thing in making sure that this project received a full environmental review, something the company resisted. The company can reapply for permits and request a DEC hearing, but the best thing would be for them to just go away. The residents of Rensselaer are already suffering from the operations of the Dunn Landfill and do not need this project in their community.”

Paul Gallay, Riverkeeper President, said:
“DEC got this one right, and Riverkeeper appreciates the time and care that they put into reviewing the applications and for their well thought out reasons for denying these permits.”

There remain significant environmental justice concerns in the area of the proposed project. Rensselaer is a community of 9,300 people who live in a small, 3.5 square mile area that already contains a major construction debris landfill, a massive asphalt receiving facility, a rail hub and a gas-fired power plant. BioHiTech’s proposed development is atop a capped Superfund site, presenting the risk that the cap will be disturbed, enabling the migration of buried contaminants into the Hudson River and surrounding community. In addition, the project likely would have contributed significant amounts of contaminated leachate into Rensselaer’s sewage system.

The proposed facility, at the 23-acre site of a former BASF chemical plant in Rensselaer, would have accepted municipal waste, extracted all recyclable materials, and then broken down the remaining waste into solid recovered fuel. The resulting “fuel” would have been trucked away to cement plants and incinerated as a replacement for coal or other fuels.

Earlier:
Riverkeeper opposes waste facility on the Hudson River in Rensselaer

News coverage:

Times Union: Judge deals setback to plan to build waste-energy plant in Rensselaer

Times Union Editorial: Doing right by Rensselaer
“It seems that officialdom is finally standing up for environmental quality in the city of Rensselaer…. Credit is due both the DEC and Mayor Mike Stammel, a Republican, who reversed his predecessor’s stance that the project didn’t need a full environmental review. Stammel and the state must stand firm; plant developers vow to appeal the DEC’s ruling.”

Media Sanctuary Q&A: Dave Ellis, Chairman of the Rensselaer Environmental Coalition
“We’re willing to work with the DEC and any other regulatory agencies to make sure that these environmental injustices are taken care of in our communities. The people of Rensselaer deserve better. We are not a wealthy community, and it seems like we’re often taken advantage of by these different types of polluting industries.”

Contact: Leah Rae, LRae@riverkeeper.org, (914) 715-6821

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