Civil and Environmental Engineering

School of Engineering

The Empire's Backyard: Power & Pollution in Sheridan Hollow

Speaker: Hon. Merton D. Simpson, Andrew J. Schneller & Keith Schue

Date: April 22, 2020

Time & Location: 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. via Zoom - Join Zoom Presentation


The Empire's Backyard: Power & Pollution in Sheridan Hollow will feature members of Sheridan Hollow Alliance for Renewable Energy (SHARE), Co-Founder and Albany County Legislator Mert Simpson, Science Committee co-chair Keith Schue, and Skidmore College Professor A.J. Schneller. For over a century, Sheridan Hollow hosted facilities that provided steam to heat and cool the Empire State Plaza through the combustion of dirty coal, oil, gas, and later, garbage. Community members were exposed to (killed and sickened by) illegal emissions of lead, dioxin, cadmium, and nickel. While the Albany New York Solid Waste Energy Recovery System (ANSWERS) incinerator finally closed in1994 after staunch community advocacy efforts - and after toxic soot landed on the Governor's mansion Lawn - in 2015 the State of NY proposed the construction of two new 8-Megawatt (11,000 horsepower) fracked gas turbines - which would run CONTINUOUSLY in Sheridan Hollow. Spoiler 2019 SHARE defeated the State's proposal and continues to advocate for a suite of renewable energy projects that will protect this frontline EJ community and our climate. Come participate in a discussion about a century of environmental injustices in this frontline community and how citizens are advocating for a renewable energy future that confronts the climate crisis and repairs past environmental harms. The session will also feature the 11:30 min. documentary film created by Skidmore College students in conjunction with SHARE and Sheridan Hollow Residents as part of "Climates of Inequality: Stories of Environmental Justice," a multimedia museum exhibit that you should visit at Albany's Stage 1 Gallery from March 6th – 22nd. The free exhibit serves as participatory public memory project about climate justice, created by students, educators, and community leaders in over 20 cities across the US and around the world.


Merton Simpson, Jr. is serving his third four-year term in the Albany County Legislature as the representative of the residents of the 2nd Legislative District (Arbor Hill, Sheridan Hollow, Washington Park and West Hill). Merton is a Human Resources Managment Specialist and holds certification in Mediation, EEOC Workplace Discrimination, MTI Managing Workpalce Conflict, Custody and Visitation and Advanced Land Use Disputes. He played the lead role in developing many of the majot HR components for New York State’s workforce including: The Diversity Program, The Numerical Goal and Timetables Program, the Utilization Analysis Report, The Discrimination Complaint Proceedure, Model Affirmative Action Plan, Internal Agency Auditing and Reporting Systems and The Affirmative Action Annual Report. Merton earn his Bachelor of Art and Master of Public Administration degrees from Long Island University, C.W. Post Collage in Greenvale, NY. Merton is Co-Chair of the Sheridan Hollow Alliance For Renewable Energy (SHARE) a coalition of individuals, community and climate groups, faith organizations, and environmental justice advocates. SHARE supports 21st century solutions to achieve New York’s bold climate goals for renewable heat and power and to eliminate the disproportionate exposure of Sheridan Hollow residents to harm. Our objective is to make New York State a model for clean energy.

Andrew J. Schneller, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY. His research sites include Baja California Sur, Mexico, Uvita Costa Rica, and upstate New York. His work explores the outcomes of experiential environmental education, service learning, and volunteerism; civil society access to decision-making in developing nations; and innovative approaches to environmental communication to promote marine protection and ecosystem restoration efforts. Most recently he's been working with Radix Ecological Sustainability Center in Albany, NY to better understand the outcomes of high school and college student participation in transformative environmental justice service learning programming. In 2019 Dr. Schneller and his students coordinated with the Sheridan Hollow Alliance for Renewable Energy to help defeat a proposed dirty fossil fuel facility, and created "The Empire's Backyard: Power & Pollution in Sheridan Hollow," as part of Climates of Inequality: Stories of Environmental Justice, a participatory, multi-media public memory project created by students, educators, and community leaders in over 20 cities. Selected publications by Dr. Schneller include: "Crude Oil Transportation by Rail in Saratoga County, NY: Public Perceptions of Technological Risk, State Responses, and Policy“ (pending); "Imaging conservation: Sea turtle murals and their effect on community pro-environmental attitudes in Baja California Sur, Mexico”; "For-profit environmental voluntourism in Costa Rica: Teen volunteer, host community and environmental outcomes."; A Case Study of Indoor Garden-Based Learning With Hydroponics and Aquaponics: Evaluating Pro-Environmental Knowledge, Perception, and Behavior Change.”; and “The Emergence of Associational Life in Mexico’s Wild West: Pioneering Civic Participation, Sea Turtle Conservation, and Environmental Awareness in Baja California Sur.”

Keith Schue is a technical advisor and science committee co-chair for the Sheridan Hollow Alliance for Renewable Energy (SHARE). A graduate of the University of Virginia with a Master’s degree in electrical engineering, he has provided technical input on issues affecting energy policy including the federal Clean Power Plan, NYS Energy Plan, NYS Clean Energy Standard, high-volume hydraulic fracking, industry regulations, legislation, and various projects.

Jay Egg Jay currently focuses his professional efforts as a renewable energy expert on geothermal energy utility efforts, solar/geothermal exchange implementation, and aquifer related environmental issues, permitting, feasibility & variances or special permitting such as utility-scale geothermal exchange systems. Among his clients are international, federal, state and local governments, developers, associations, and private entities.

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