Moreau approves industrial development moratorium amid controversial waste facility project

Moreau Town Board approves construction moratorium

Moreau Town Board approves construction moratorium including disposal of waste materials that do not originate in the town.

The Moreau Town Board on Monday approved a 9-month moratorium on any new industrial development, in response to a controversial project for a waste facility.

The new law would prohibit the issuing of any permits allowing industrial uses and operations in the town’s manufacturing and industrial zones until the board can update its comprehensive plan to determine the types of uses that should be allowed, according to the resolution.

It would also ban any permits that would allow the disposal or processing of any waste that does not originate in the town, and any business or commercial operation that includes the processing of such waste, until the town can consider whether the current town code is “sufficiently protective” of the health and welfare of its citizens. 

The vote was 4-0 with one board member absent.

The moratorium is in response to a controversial project by Saratoga Biochar Solutions, which wants to construct and operate a facility at the Moreau Industrial Park to turn biosolids and wood waste feedstock into carbon fertilizer.

The company has applied for permits from the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

Residents have expressed concern about truck traffic to and from the site and potential contamination from the project. That is referenced in the law, which states: “the potential for downstream contamination of the food chain and for environmental soil and groundwater damage during the post processing use of the sludge as a fertilizer are also the subject of many studies which are voicing scientific concern for public health and safety.”

The town is also concerned about DEC’s oversight, citing a September 2023 audit by the state Comptroller’s Office critical of the agency’s ability to test emissions from facilities requiring an air pollution control permit.

The law states that Moreau residents “do not deserve to be guinea pigs associated with a process that does not share a comforting degree of scientific approval of its safety.”

Late Tuesday afternoon, Saratoga Biochar Solutions issued a statement in response to the moratorium:

“Moreau’s April Fool’s moratorium establishes a dangerous precedent for the State of New York that threatens the very tenets of New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA).  Furthermore, it highlights the political and economic risks associated with doing business in New York and sends a clear message to innovative waste solutions providers to avoid our state.

“Allowing any community to simply say ‘not in our backyard’ guarantees that disadvantaged communities around existing landfills and incinerators will continue to bear the brunt of air pollution from such current waste management solutions. This is clearly not the intent of the CLCPA, as the status quo (e.g., landfilling, incineration, land application and long-distance hauling) will inevitably continue to negatively impact disadvantaged communities – both in our own state and in those to which New York exports its waste.

Our project plans in Moreau will proceed and we will seek exemption relief from the moratorium in whatever form is required. We remain excited and hopeful to see a positive result from our NYSDEC permit application efforts that have spanned the past two-plus years.”

In February, the company accused the town of driving away business it doesn’t like and called the moratorium narrow and unlawful.