Environmental groups want more time to comment on proposed Catskills biofuel plant
Roger Hannigan Gilson reports in the Times Union that environmental advocates want more time for the public comment period for a proposed biofuel plant near Prattsville in Delaware County. Hughes Energy officials say the 115,000-square foot plant would convert organic garbage into a material that could be burned as a biofuel that would be good for the environment. But the plant would be less than 2,000 feet from the Schoharie Creek, and environmental advocates worry it would affect the drinking water for a million Hudson Valley residents and most of New York City. Others are concerned about the number of trucks that would be on local roads carrying garbage to the facility. "What I’ve always said about this project is, the devil’s in the details – it really needs to be looked at," Wes Gillingham, the associate director for the environmental group Catskill Mountainkeeper, said. "That’s a huge structure they’re talking about building in a very rural area." On Sept. 20 New York's Department of Environmental Conservation determined that the project would require a full environmental impact statement. Hughes Energy CEO Dane McSpedon said, "We're not surprised in any way – given a project of this size – for the DEC to want to to be very thorough." Now Hughes Energy must submit an initial, "scoping" document to the DEC about what issues they will address in their full impact statement, and then the public has 30 days to comment. Catskill Mountainkeeper, and the environmental groups Riverkeeper, and Don't Trash the Catskills. want that extended to 90 days. "The local community is particularly concerned about the project’s potential impact on their health and safety, economy, local environment, and aesthetic character of the area," according to a letter the three groups sent to the DEC on Oct. 6. They also want oral, not just written comments. The Hughes Energy CEO says that, so far, the DEC has been "very fair and open." Read more about this story in the Times Union.