ALBANY – The Port of Albany has decided to forgo $29.5 million in federal funding for the $350 million wind turbine tower manufacturing facility it wants to build on the Hudson River to speed up the permitting process after falling behind schedule.
The funding – which had been allocated to the Port of Albany by the U.S. Department of Transportation – has been in jeopardy since the summer when the port clear-cut more than 80 acres of waterfront land in the town of Bethlehem without federal permits.
At its monthly meeting Wednesday, port officials said they were withdrawing the grant application with DOT, allowing it to move forward more quickly with the project, which must be completed by the end of next year.
“This was a hard decision, but one that we think is important to move the project forward, and we’ve done that in consultation with the project partners, of course, with the goal of making up the time that’s necessary for this project’s timeline,” Megan Daly, the port’s chief commercial officer said after announcing the decision.
It is unclear how the port will replace the funding, which was supposed to pay for infrastructure at the Hudson River site, known as Beacon Island.
The port bought Beacon Island several years ago in anticipation of constructing the facility, which is being built for Equinor and its equipment manufacturing partners, Marmen and Welcon.
Equinor, an energy company owned by the government of Norway, is building several wind farms off the coast of Long Island that will supply clean energy to the state in support of its goal to reach 100 percent emissions-free electricity by 2040.
Because of the federal funding, the port was required to go through a separate review by the DOT’s Maritime Administration, or MARAD, before clearing the land. After it got in trouble with the federal agency over the tree-cutting at Beacon Island, the port stopped all site preparation at Beacon Island. The move put the project months behind schedule.
Port officials said by dropping the grant request, MARAD will no longer hold back the federal permitting process that will now be led by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Earlier this year, a group of more than 20 Glenmont residents sued the port and the town of Bethlehem for clearing 80 acres of land on the Hudson River for the project allegedly without providing proper notification to local homeowners. The group is also worried about coal fly ash covering the site that was dumped there by a former Niagara Mohawk power plant decades ago. Fly ash can be toxic, although it is often used in construction materials.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer has championed the project for years, securing the $29.5 million in December. At the time, Schumer said the money was vital to the project, giving the companies involved a major signal that the plan would receive the government support required in the industry, which can be volatile even as it grows rapidly.
Schumer wrote several letters and made a call to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to lobby for the grant, which would have come from DOT’s Maritime Administration. The money was part of the $1 trillion infrastructure bill that Schumer steered through the Senate and was signed by President Joseph Biden.
Allison Biasotti, a spokeswoman for Schumer, said the majority leader was “proud” to have secured the $29.5 million grant for the port but will “continue to fight to secure good-paying, clean-energy jobs in the Capital Region and to combat climate change.” That includes benefits of the newly passed Inflation Reduction Act such as wind production tax credits which she said will provide “new wind in the sails and make this Albany project a success.”
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