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DeWitt: Zones may have impact on proposed coal plant

When the DeWitt Town Board unanimously voted to change its zoning map on June 9, it generated another obstacle to a proposed coal gasification plant.

Empire Synfuel applied to the Department of Conservation and the town of DeWitt for permission to build the plant south of Rock Cut Road, on the former Alpha Cement factory in Jamesville. But now, the site is zoned Hi Tech from Industrial, which may prevent the plant from ever forming.

Adam Victor, head of parent company TransGas Energy Systems in New York City is out of the country and unavailable. When informed of the town board decision, Manager of Development Aaron Daley had no comment.

The application process for a permit with the DEC is separate, DEC Spokesperson Stephanie Harrington said. In order to proceed, the proposal would need approval from the state and the town.

Coal would be super heated and chemically changed to synthetic methane gas, which would then be piped from the site for sale as natural gas. Mercury, sulfuric acid and carbon dioxide are by-products created during this process.

Just a few miles away

"It's only three miles from native territory," said Joe Heath, general counsel for the Onondaga Nation.

This sentiment was echoed by retired physician Robert A. Richman: "Why hasn't Syracuse caught on that this is going to affect everybody?"

According to the JAM-PAC website, four million gallons of wastewater used to cool the heated coal would be sent from the gas plant to the metro sewage treatment plant daily.

The gasification plant would need 100 rail cars of coal each day. There's only one rail line, Heath said. The train cars would travel through Syracuse's south side and Armory Square, right past the Federal Building.

Jack Loveland, management consultant for the Empire Synfuel project and resident of Jamesville, said the coal would come on one train per day, in covered cars, between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.

He said, "Why wouldn't you like to have 1,000 construction jobs and 150 good-paying jobs?"

The town would also benefit from taxes paid by the plant, Loveland said.

TransGas Energy Systems, also owned by Adam Victor, has plans to build a gasification plant in Scriba next to the Novelis aluminum factory. A "coalition of responsible citizens" has been meeting to oppose the plan.

Annette L. Hogan is a contributing writer for Eagle Newspapers.

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