Stony Point Planning Board Will Consider Waste-to-Biofuel Plant

BY JANIE ROSMAN and CHERYL SLAVIN

New Planet Energy told the Stony Point Planning Board last month why its application for a Green Industrial Facility Zoning & New Planet Sustainable Fuels Project differs from the one cancelled two years earlier.

A former application at Holt Drive Industrial Park — called the Stony Point Waste to Energy Project — was part of the Hudson River View Industrial Park proposal put forward by MBC Contractors Inc., a major developer in town owned by Patrick McGee of Stony Point.McGee pulled the application as it was about to go through SEQRA scoping.

“There’s no relationship between the current applicant and the previous concept, which was not fully formed,” Councilman Tom Basile, said. “That didn’t rise to the level of a full-fledged proposal. The new developer is experienced and has an existing facility and various partners who are specialists in this type of sustainable green energy.”

The original application was also pulled from consideration shortly after the Town of Haverstraw commenced legal proceedings in 2013 to halt the progress of the project. The Stony Point Zoning Board had ruled in July last year that Stony Point could proceed with issuing permits for the project; Haverstraw responded by filing an Article 78 petition against its neighboring town and the Building Inspector Bill Sheehan. That legal proceeding is still pending before Judge Loehr of New York State Supreme Court.

Regardless of the ongoing legal battle, Stony Point is determined to push forward with the biofuel gasification plant. Supervisor Geoff Finn sees the project as a major source of steady revenue and rateables not just for his town but for all of North Rockland, especially the school district. He said he fully believes that Stony Point will prevail in the legal tussle, and that the new plant will become a reality. Based on this anticipation, he has already included in the 2015 budget a small increase in the amount of anticipated licensing/permit revenue as a result.

“It has the potential to be one of the largest private investments in the county in a generation,” Councilman Basile said, citing the jobs and ancillary businesses it will foster. “It’s an opportunity for the county and for Stony Point that will alleviate financial burden for residential property owners.”

According to Planning Board Chairman Thomas Gubitosa, the new proposal submitted for 30, 45 and 50 Holt Drive differs distinctly from the old one, and stands a much better chance of approval. The three separate petitions request an amendment to the Zoning Code for the project (another piece of property) to accommodate future new green businesses that want to submit applications; an amendment to the zoning of 30 Holt Drive from R1 (area meant for single-family residences) to LI-2 (light industrial, manufacturing) specific to the applicant’s location; and a new site plan review for the project.

As originally conceived, the plant was to convert garbage and industrial waste into synthetic gas which could then be sold at a profit. The new proposal has the plant converting the waste products into synthetic “sulfur-free renewable diesel transportation fuel” through a process called pyrolysis, which applies heat, but does not burn the products. The proposal also claims that the resulting by-product of ash will be clean enough to use as fertilizer, and that recyclable materials will be separated prior to the gasification process and sent elsewhere for processing.

John Cruikshank, VP Project Development at NPE, said the company has been exploring areas in New York State for the past two years. “Our approach is to identify a community that fits our criteria, and then see if we fit its criteria as well,” he said. Since the idea was previously considered in Stony Point, he said, NPE knew it would be open-minded about the plant. “I commend the Stony Point Zoning and Planning Boards for being rightfully cautious,” he stated.

Basile, a former EPA official, notes that gasification is not synonymous with incineration. “This is something new, a sustainable energy process. I would not build an incinerator in Stony Point.”

The Town of Haverstraw, however, still contends that the construction of this plant would violate Stony Point’s code prohibition against the building of an incinerator on town land. Haverstraw Supervisor Howard Phillips also maintains that the proposed location of the plant near vulnerable wetlands, a school, a senior citizen complex and a marina raises serious environmental concerns. Moreover, he questioned the safety and feasibility of having the 250 or more 18-wheeler trucks carrying tons of trash traveling daily over Holt Drive. He thinks that other sites, such as the old Lovett site or Tilcon quarry, are better suited for such a venture, and he is convinced that Haverstraw will prevail in the Article 78 proceeding.

Gubitosa feels feasibility of the project will depend upon the various governmental agencies. The Planning Board has sent out lead agency letters and information packets; recipients will be invited to New Planet Energy’s presentation to the community on January 8, 2015. Meanwhile, the Planning Board will discuss the application at its December 11 meeting, which is too soon for George Potanovic, Jr., President, Stony Point Action Committee for the Environment (SPACE).

“I’m concerned that the schedule (for meetings) is too aggressive, and more time is needed for the public to review the documents and comment,” Potanovic said. “The Planning Board is giving the public the minimum amount of time, and the project hasn’t gotten that far.”

“It’s the normal procedure, and we have to go by the law,” Gubitosa responds. “There will be multiple meetings, and plenty of opportunity for the public to comment.”

NYPIRG Senior Environmental Associate Laura Haight has said the agency has concerns about the experimental new technology, which hasn’t been tested on a large scale. NYPIRG is particularly concerned that air emissions from this facility could include mercury, lead, arsenic, dioxins, furans and other toxins.

The new proposal and the three petitions are available on the town’s website: http://www.townofstonypoint.org/planning-board.