|(11/14/2022) New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos and New York Attorney General Letitia James took action to protect New Yorkers from air pollution caused by harmful emissions. Following their October 2022 lawsuit against Norlite, LLC (Norlite) to force the company to stop polluting the air with contaminants from its Cohoes facility, Attorney General James and Commissioner Seggos asked the court to require Norlite to immediately cease harmful emissions and suspend certain operations when emissions levels approach thresholds established to preserve public health.
“The joint legal action taken by DEC and the Attorney General James to prevent Norlite’s air pollution was an important step in the State’s commitment to help protect the health of local residents and our environment,” said DEC Commissioner Seggos. “While the fight to hold Norlite accountable continues, this new filing seeks to implement additional oversight and monitoring or halt the company’s operations to prevent any additional harmful airborne contaminants from affecting the Cohoes community.”
“Air pollution from the Norlite plant has made it impossible for community members to open a window or walk outside without fearing for their health and safety,” said Attorney General James. “Last month, Commissioner Seggos and I filed a lawsuit to protect Cohoes residents and force an end to Norlite’s long history of environmental violations. Today, we are taking action to stop Norlite from continuing to endanger the neighboring community, and we remain committed to restoring safe, clean air for all New Yorkers.”
Industrial operations at Norlite cause high levels of emissions containing crystalline silica and particulate matter, which pollute the air in the surrounding community and endanger residents’ health. The state conducted an intensive monitoring program at the facility in 2021 and 2022, which determined that levels of particulate matter and crystalline silica in the air in the community surrounding Norlite exceed levels established to protect against harmful health impacts. The monitoring also confirmed Norlite to be the primary cause of the elevated levels of particulate matter and crystalline silica in the local community’s air.
In the filing for a preliminary injunction, the state asserts that Norlite has persistently engaged in conduct causing harmful air pollution despite receiving repeated warnings. The facility is located roughly 100 feet away from Saratoga Sites Apartments – a 70-unit public housing complex that as of October 2022 was home to approximately 100 residents, including 43 children. Residents have observed clouds of dust migrating from Norlite and descending over Saratoga Sites and complain of myriad health concerns related to air pollution including but not limited to upper respiratory issues, sinus problems, high blood pressure, headaches, eye irritation, sore throats, chest pains, asthma, COPD, and cancer.
The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) and DEC are asking the New York Supreme Court in Albany County to order Norlite to implement a program to closely monitor crystalline silica and particulate matter emissions from the facility, publicly report the results, and immediately cease operations when emissions approach prescribed health-based thresholds. The motion also asks the court to order Norlite to engage an independent engineer to identify facility upgrades and operational adjustments options for permanently eliminating harmful emissions.
This matter is being handled for OAG by Assistant Attorneys General Joseph Kowalczyk, Nick Buttino, and Christine Donovan Bub, Affirmative Litigation Section Chief Morgan Costello, and Environmental Scientist D Pei Wu, all under the supervision of Deputy Bureau Chief Lisa M. Burianek and Bureau Chief Lemuel M. Srolovic of the Environmental Protection Bureau. Investigators Edward Conlan, Clint DuMoulin, and Rocio Villa, under the supervision of Supervising Investigator Harry Czosnykowski and Civil Investigations Deputy Chief Jon Wood, also provided critical assistance. The Environmental Protection Bureau is a part of the Division for Social Justice, which is led by Chief Deputy Attorney General Meghan Faux. The Division for Social Justice and the Investigations Division are overseen by First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.
Regional Attorney Victoria Ruglis is representing DEC in this matter with lead technical support from Regional Air Pollution Control Engineer Benjamin Potter and Regional Engineer Victoria Schmitt, under supervision of Regional Director Anthony Luisi.