Thursday, 01 February 2024 13:53

Saratoga Biochar Alleges “Potentially Illegal Actions” by Moreau

The entrance to the Moreau Industrial Park, where Saratoga Biochar is attempting to build a plant. Photo by Jonathon Norcross. The entrance to the Moreau Industrial Park, where Saratoga Biochar is attempting to build a plant. Photo by Jonathon Norcross.

MOREAU — Saratoga Biochar Solutions has accused the Moreau town supervisor and town board of “underhanded and potentially illegal actions” after Moreau officials held a closed-door meeting regarding a possible construction moratorium at the Moreau Industrial Park, where Biochar is attempting to build a facility. 

In a statement, Biochar said the meeting was “in likely violation of New York state open meeting law.” As of January 31, the Town of Moreau’s website had not posted any record of the January 19 meeting taking place. A request for comment from the Moreau town supervisor’s office was not returned.

Raymond Apy, founder and CEO of Northeastern Biochar Solutions, the parent company of Saratoga Biochar, said he hasn’t heard from any Moreau officials since his company released a statement criticizing them on January 24. “I would not accuse them of malicious activity,” Apy said. Rather, Apy said he was disappointed that “they’re not holding true to their campaign promise of transparency.”

Gina LeClair, a former member of the Moreau Town Board from 2008 to 2020, said that closed-door meetings are common but “not something that’s lightly done.” 

“They’re legal meetings,” LeClair said. “The town board meets every two weeks. If something comes up that they need the advice of their attorney, they can, at any point that’s convenient for them and the attorney, get together.” LeClair said that attorneys present during the meetings would “immediately speak up” if a specific discussion was not allowed in private.

Biochar has been attempting to build a fertilizer plant at the Moreau Industrial Park for the past two years. Possible construction of the facility has led to opposition from local politicians, as well as the formation of anti-Biochar groups such as “Not Moreau,” which was co-founded by LeClair and currently has 1,700 followers on Facebook.

LeClair said that opposition to a Biochar facility in Moreau is motivated by concerns with emissions, truck traffic, noise pollution, odor, and a potential decline in property values. “Twenty jobs at a sewage sludge handling plant is not significant enough to put all of this down on all of these communities,” LeClair said. “There’s really not much in there that’s good for the residents of Moreau.” 

In contrast to local opposition, Apy said his interactions with New York State officials have been “very collaborative.” Biochar recently received its Notice of Completed Application from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC). NYSDEC is expected to make a final decision on solid waste management and air emissions permits for Biochar at some point this year.

“We’re a small startup company. We’ve been accused of being some big, giant corporate greedy pig,” Apy said. “We care about environmental sustainability. That’s our entire company ethos.”

Apy said he remains optimistic about not just building a plant in Moreau, but also expanding his company to Colorado, California, Pennsylvania, and even Australia. “It would be unfortunate for New York not to gain the recognition of a groundbreaking facility like this coming online before some other state or even another country,” Apy said. 

NYSDEC will hold both virtual and in-person public hearings about Biochar in South Glens Falls on February 7 and 8. Anti-Biochar activists are planning their own meetings on February 6 that will teach attendees “how to make an impactful statement or letter to convince [NYSDEC] to not issue permits to Saratoga Biochar,” according to an event flier.

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