The Holcim Catskill cement plant officially closed on June 13th. As noted in previous commentaries on the shuttering, most workers were gone months or even years ago, as the plant endured a long series of layoffs and job eliminations.
An article in yesterday’s Catskill Daily Mail contains a couple of interesting tidbits for those wondering if the old beast could spring back to life. While Holcim (pronounced hole-sim, after the French word ciment, as confirmed in these corporate videos) has claimed it will maintain its permits and perform basic maintenance in case they want to reopen, comments from Catskill officials make that sound unlikely.
A Greene County Legislator for Catskill, Forest Cotten, is quoted as saying “Holcim is just not going to stay.”
The article by Doron Tyler Antrim also recognizes what many observers have long understood: Namely, that the Holcim Catskill plant has been falling into disrepair for many years, making it inefficient and unprofitable. Meanwhile, the necessary and significant upgrades to the plant would not only require a major investment, but would also likely trigger a lengthy permitting process under New Source Review (“NSR”)—standards the company might not be able to meet given its location on the Hudson River and in a Scenic Area of Statewide Significance (or “SASS Area”).
Catskill Supervisor Pat Walsh concedes that it would “take a major renovation to get that plant going again,” which Antrim then states “is something Holcim is apparently unwilling to do.”
The Daily Mail also reports, per comments by Greene County Legislature chair Wayne Speenburgh, that the Holcim (formerly St. Lawrence Cement and Independent Cement) site will likely become an “eyesore” like the abandoned Alsen Coal Terminal just to its south. Catskill and Greene County officials might want to consider legislative options to compel property owners to clean up or at minimum prevent further blight.
Antrim’s article also notes that only five former Holcim employees have felt the need to enter the Columbia-Greene Workforce Investment Office’s retraining program. Most of the plant’s workers were gone months or even years ago, as the plant slowly faded away, and workers have moved on to other pursuits.
However, that doesn’t stop former union chief Dennis Smith from attempting to scapegoat outsiders for the company’s failures, in a misleading and inflammatory letter-to-the-editor. Failing to identify his relationship with the company, Smith apparently feels no remorse or responsibility for the many years that this dirty, outmoded plant polluted the lungs of downwind residents in Germantown (and beyond), or poisoned the crops of downwind farms all over Columbia County, or fouled the waters of the Hudson River. And he makes no mention of the numerous fines for safety and environmental violations levied over the years against the facility.