DEC orders comprehensive review of Hughes trash-to-fuel plant in Prattsville
Roger Hannigan Gilson is reporting for the Times Union that Hughes Energy Group has proposed the construction of a biofuel production facility in Prattsville, hoping to build a new kind of waste processing facility. But the company must now create an elaborate plan to study and minimize its potential environmental impacts, according to a decision by the state Department of Environmental Conservation on December 1. Hughes wants to construct a 115,000-square-foot plant it says will help New York reach its climate goals by annually converting 176,000 tons of sorted garbage into a fibrous material that could replace paper products and coal. The process would cut down on methane, a greenhouse gas produced by rotting organic material, by diverting trash from landfills and turning it into reusable products, the company says. However, environmental groups and residents have pushed back on the plan with increasing intensity, arguing there are too many unknowns with the new technology and worrying about the plant's impact on the Catskill Mountains and the New York City reservoir system. The plant would be located less than 2,000 feet from Schoharie Creek, which feeds into the Ashokan Reservoir that provides water to most of New York City and about 1 million people in the Hudson Valley. The DEC is now requiring Hughes Energy to study and plan how to minimize possible adverse environmental impacts, including on water resources, noise, odor, traffic, and public infrastructure. Hughes Energy CEO Dane McSpedon said he had "no issue" with the DEC plan. The regional environmental group Riverkeeper applauded the DEC's decision to have Hughes address the five potential impacts. The waste received by the plant would initially come from transfer stations. It would be trucked to the plant, where other hazardous materials would be removed by being loaded into giant autoclaves. This waste, which would still be 16 percent plastic, would be heated in the autoclaves to 250 degrees and pressurized, causing plastics to shrink and coagulate together. The autoclaves turn the organic materials into a fibrous mush; metal, cloth and the plastics would be recycled elsewhere. The mush would then be dried and used to replace paper, coal, or wood pellets. Read the full story in the Times Union.