Port of Albany should reconsider Beacon Island project

To the Editor:

I am writing to bring to light crucial discussions from the Port of Albany Board of Commissioners meeting on April 26. During this meeting, a consultant presented compelling arguments against the continuation of the wind tower manufacturing project on Beacon Island.

Despite the site’s significant environmental and logistical shortcomings, it appears that state pressure continues to push this flawed project forward.

The consultant highlighted several key issues with the Beacon Island site: The river is neither deep nor wide enough to support such manufacturing activities; there is a lack of a substantial local labor force; and the distance from the New York City offshore wind site negates any intended reduction in CO2 emissions.

He urged the board to explore alternative locations and products, emphasizing that the valuable contacts made through the Beacon Island project could be leveraged elsewhere.

The chief counsel for the port expressed frustration, stating that the state was pushing the project, and he could not believe that the project is not going through.

This sentiment underscores the disconnect between state ambitions and the project’s practical and environmental realities.

A year prior, on March 27, 2023, the board’s chief financial officer raised concerns that the wind tower project was ballooning to three times its original budget. The program manager attributed some of the cost overruns to the magnitude of contamination on the site, which required an additional 70 to 80 soil borings and the removal of 9,100 tons of contaminated soil, with more to be removed. Despite their apparent surprise at the extent of the contamination, the project continued.

It is deeply troubling that despite the clear evidence of environmental hazards, escalating costs, and logistical impracticalities, the state continues to push this project forward. The environmental, financial, and ethical implications are too significant to ignore.

We urge state officials and the Port of Albany Board of Commissioners to reconsider the Beacon Island project. Alternative locations and products must be evaluated to ensure that public funds are used responsibly, and that environmental and community health are not compromised.

I will include here the comments I made to the Bethlehem Town Board on June 12:

I stand before you today with a heavy heart and a sense of duty. It was not an easy decision to come here, knowing that my words might be met with indifference or seen merely as a form of entertainment. For over two years, my voice, our voices, have gone unheard. Today, I am not speaking as a concerned citizen but as a representative tasked with a significant responsibility.

Recently, we met with the Environmental Protection Agency, and we were asked to support the enforcement of the Coal Combustion Residuals Management Unit Final Rule. This is not a matter of personal opinion or political stance; it is a critical issue with real, quantifiable threats.

The EPA expects about 1,000 new legacy landfills to be listed in the next few months, and the EPA simply does not have the manpower to enforce it alone. By virtue of the 2015 Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and the Final Rule, we have been, for lack of a better term, deputized to assist in this effort.

The meeting with the EPA was daunting. The realities of CCRMU sites are alarming, as they significantly increase the risk of cancer within a radius of up to three miles. This is not a political game or a matter of gamesmanship; it is a serious, measurable threat to public health and safety.

According to the EPA and coal ash experts we have consulted, the coal ash on Beacon Island must be removed, and the island will need to be closed. The new regulations prohibit the beneficial use of coal ash and override any existing permits from the Department of Environmental Conservation.

I am here to ask for your cooperation and support as we embark on this challenging journey. The alternative is for you to join others in assuming fiscal responsibility for minimally, a hundred million dollars for remediation — a burden that would be insurmountable for the residents of Bethlehem to bear.

We are committed to transparency and collaboration. Perhaps there is someone on your board who can work with us, bridge the gap between our efforts and your governance. The reputation you all sought with this ill-advised project is beginning to materialize, and not in the way you had planned. One might say it is “blowin’ in the wind.” 

You have a chance to change the trajectory not only by reconciling with us but you have been greenlighted by the Attorney General’s Office to reopen the State Environmental Quality Review. 

I urge you to walk with us in this next phase. Together, we can address this threat head-on and ensure the safety and well-being of our community. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sylvia Rowlands


Editor’s note: See related Altamont Enterprise story, “Beacon Island ash landfill to come under new EPA regulations.”

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