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Environmentalists split on state's cement measure

Dec 15, 2021 6:00 am

Rick Karlin is reporting for the Times Union the state Legislature has sent a bill to Gov. Kathy Hochul's desk that would set up a system for encouraging cement companies like LaFargeHolcim in Coeymans to consider ways of lowering their carbon footprint in the concrete-making process. Cement making for concrete contributes an estimated 7 percent of the planet’s greenhouse gas emissions, due to the scale and amounts of coal used in the process. Lawmakers have approved a measure that, if approved, would have the state Office of General Services consider the carbon footprint of companies bidding to sell concrete to the state for use in building roads, bridges or buildings. The state currently considers price and whether a company can deliver a quality product on time as bid criteria. “We need to find a way to green this industry,” said Brooklyn Democratic Assemblyman Robert Carroll, who sponsored the bill with Long Island Democratic Sen. Todd Kaminsky. But former regional EPA Administrator Judith Enck said she believes the bill leaves open the door for cement companies to burn waste, including used tires and other refuse, as a substitute for using coal in their kilns. “It never defines what low carbon concrete is,” said Enck. She is also the founder of Beyond Plastics, which tries to reduce the use of plastics. Enck wrote to Hochul, urging her to veto the bill. Instead, she believes the state should encourage cement makers to look at increasing the efficiency of their kilns and using materials such as ground glass and a sand substitute, which could be more efficient. Enck's letter was co-signed by dozens of local environmental groups including NYPIRG, Food and Water Watch as well as the Clean Air Coalition of Greater Ravena-Coeymans and Save the Pine Bush. Other groups, including the New York League of Conservation Voters, support the measure, saying it could incentivize ways to reduce carbon in the concrete-making process. The LaFargeHolcim plant in Ravena previously suggested using solid waste and tires as fuel. Those plans prompted local residents to organize against that proposal. The state Department of Environmental Conservation in May ruled that the plant would not be able to burn tires with its current configuration. Worry about tire burning came up in 2017 following reports the company had plans to bring in solid waste, including used tires from out of state, to help power the kiln. Officials from LaFargeHolcim could not be reached for comment. While the use of substitute fuels is just beginning in the U.S., cement makers worldwide are already burning garbage. Read the full story in the Times Union.

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