BETHLEHEM – The Port of Albany’s proposed $350 million wind tower assembly facility in Glenmont – one of the most significant renewable energy economic development projects in Capital Region history – will get an in-depth environmental review from the town of Bethlehem, as expected for a project of such a size and scope.
The Bethlehem planning board voted July 6 to issue a s0-called positive declaration for the preparation of a state-required draft environmental impact statement for the project, plans for which were recently updated by the Port of Albany after the two companies that will run the facility provided more details on their plans.
Sometimes an applicant will try to convince a local planning board that such an extra environmental review is not warranted, but this project is a major environmental policy project of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration, so any such argument would be counterintuitive in this case.
The Port of Albany updated the town on June 15 of additional changes to the project after the two operators of the site, the Canadian company Marmen and the Danish firm Welcon, were officially on board as joint partners.
“The applicant identified the need for a Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement since additional components and land area are now included in the project,” Robert Leslie, Bethlehem’s director of planning wrote in a June 30 letter explaining the need for the supplemental DEIS to be completed.
Leslie confirmed Monday that the port had requested the positive declaration, which adds time and cost to a project but carefully weighs any required environmental safeguards to a large project.
Marmen and Welcon will operate four buildings with about 590,000 square feet of space at the Glenmont site, which sits just south of the port’s current facilities and will have a 500-foot dock to access the Hudson for transporting the completed turbines to wind farms planned off the coast of New York state.
The major changes that triggered the positive declaration were a National Grid easement that will be used for parking; the fact that the maximum building height would be 100 feet; potential impacts to subaquatic vegetation, and the use by the two companies of a facility located at 700 Smith Blvd. in the city of Albany.
Under state law, there are environmental justice considerations that have to be considered in allowing the use of the Smith Boulevard parcel due to its location and demographics. However, the city of Albany will conduct that portion of the review.
Bethlehem Planning Board Chair Brian Gyory said he would like to see that either public transportation or electric vehicle infrastructure be considered as well.
“To me, it would be a missed opportunity at least not to consider it,” Gyory said before the July 6 vote.
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