Thursday, 15 February 2024 14:37

DEC Holds Public Hearings for Saratoga Biochar Project

A woman delivers prepared remarks regarding the Saratoga Biochar project at a February 8 public hearing at South Glens Falls High School. Photo by Super Source Media Studios. A woman delivers prepared remarks regarding the Saratoga Biochar project at a February 8 public hearing at South Glens Falls High School. Photo by Super Source Media Studios.

MOREAU — Last week, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) hosted a pair of public hearings, one virtual and one in-person, regarding the proposed Saratoga Biochar project in Moreau. Participants were given three minutes to submit for the record their comments on whether Saratoga Biochar should be granted a permit to build a biochar manufacturing facility in the Moreau Industrial Park.

Of the 24 people who spoke at the virtual hearing, 20 opposed the Saratoga Biochar project. Dozens more spoke at the in-person hearing, with the vast majority again opposing the construction of a biochar facility in Moreau. 

Moreau resident Thomas Masso said that the Moreau Planning Board “approved the project 4-2 based entirely on the information submitted by Saratoga Biochar. That information consists of unproven theories, cherry-picked excerpts from various studies, and small sample tests.” 

David Walker, a professor at the Columbia Climate School, said that he reviewed the project two years ago but believed that unresolved concerns had not been addressed. “Given these unresolved and potentially devastating issues, it’s not surprising that the use of sewage sludge-derived biochar as an agricultural soil amendment is banned in countries like the U.K. New York should also ban that sort of use,” Walker said.

Myles Gray, program director at the U.S. Biochar Initiative, spoke in favor of the project. “In general, the process of converting biosolids into biochar is a climate solution, and it also is a pathway to eliminate forever chemicals from agricultural systems.” Kathleen Draper, who described herself as a “longtime advocate of carbonizing underutilized organic material” also spoke in support of Saratoga Biochar.

Following the public hearings, Saratoga Biochar released a statement from its president, Bryce Meeker. “Let me be clear: Saratoga Biochar Solutions is a green, environmentally and socially conscious company,” Meeker said. “We are here to alleviate the pollution burden by remediating biosolids and enabling them to be beneficially utilized as bio-fertilizer to restore soil.”

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