Albany Times Union
New suit filed to stop Port’s turbine plant
ALBANY — A breakaway group of Glenmont residents seeking to block the Port of Albany’s wind turbine tower factory from being built near their homes has also filed a lawsuit against government agencies involved in the project’s approval.
Sylvia Rowlands, along with her husband, Phillip, and another Glenmont couple, Joanne and Daniel Maier, filed an Article 78 lawsuit against 17 federal, state and local agencies, including the town of Bethlehem where the project is located.
The lawsuit is the second that residents have filed in an attempt to block the Port of Albany’s construction of the wind turbine tower factory on Beacon Island, a former landfill located on the banks of the Hudson River.
The town of Bethlehem’s planning and zoning boards had already approved the Port of Albany project when the initial lawsuit was filed last summer against the town and the port.
The suit, filed by Glenmont attorney Chris Dempf, alleged that the town had not given proper notice to residents around the project site before approving it, and that the town did not properly follow the state’s environmental review process when evaluating the potential impacts the project will have on health, safety and quality of life for residents living nearby.
The Port of Albany bought Beacon Island several years ago, before the pandemic, with the specific aim of developing the site for the construction of a factory that would serve new offshore wind farms being developed off the coast of Long Island. The offshore wind developers that have been award
ed contracts from the state have agreed to make turbine equipment for the wind farms in New York, and the Port of Albany is one of the state’s preferred sites along with the Port of Coeymans.
Beacon Island is being developed for a manufacturing joint venture called Marmen Welcon that will be putting together the towers for Equinor, a Norway energy firm that is building wind farms off Long Island in partnership with the state. The project is expected to employ 550 people and start production by next year. However, the $350 million price tag has risen to more than $600 million, and the port has been seeking additional state funding. It is unclear if the money will come through.
The Glenmont residents who are suing, some of whom can see Beacon Island from their homes, are most concerned with the fact that the site includes 2 million tons of toxic coal fly ash dumped there decades ago by a nearby power plant.
Last month, the Rowlands and the Maiers split from Dempf, and last week filed a new lawsuit against the town and state and federal agencies involved in the Beacon Island project’s approvals, including the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The Rowlands suit is what is known as an Article 78 proceeding that challenges a decision made by a government official or board.
The DEC, which oversees the SEQR regulations but does not enforce the laws, has previously told the Times Union that the town of Bethlehem and the Port of Albany followed the SEQR process properly after the Rowlands brought up the issue at a Bethlehem Town Board meeting. The town has also defended its compliance with SEQR.
The Rowlands declined comment. The DEC could not immediately be reached for comment. Dempf this week also appears to have filed a second Article 78 lawsuit in the case, citing a number of new defendants, including state agencies, although Dempf could not immediately be reached for comment to explain the strategy.