Environmental equity

The article ``N.Y. State Accused of Environmental Racism for Incinerator site,'' Feb. 8, regarding the closing of an Albany, N.Y., power plant concerns a serious issue. Polluting industrial facilities have been forced in many instances on poor and minority communities, particularly in the past. The article, however, makes two serious misstatements.

First, it was not the trash-fired boilers at the Albany plant that blackened the snow in January, but rather the oil-fired boilers. The trash-fired boilers consistently met state environmental requirements. While pollution controls on the trash-fired boilers were not as advanced as in plants we build today, they were cleaner than the oil-fired boilers that provide power to many cities.

Second, the Albany facility was not originally sited as a waste-to-energy plant. It was built in the mid-1960s and burned oil until about 1981. In 1981, to reduce pollution and conserve oil, the trash-fired boilers were added and the oil-fired boilers were converted to natural gas. The recent problem arose when these boilers switched back to oil.

The waste-to-energy industry is young and has been at the forefront of modern pollution control and community relations. We have looked at our own plant locations and have not found evidence of inequitable siting. In most cases, our plants have been built at the invitation of the local community. For example, the proposed Green Island waste-to-energy project near Albany was approved 3 to 1 in a recent referendum. Our industry is committed to environmental equity and to environmentally sound operation. Kent Burton, Washington President, Integrated Waste Services Assoc.

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