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Anti-Incineration Campaign Underway in Carroll and Frederick Counties
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by Kim Stenley | 2007

Fuel for an incinerator, or a valuable resource? The campaign in support of recycling over incineration is ongoing in Carroll and Frederick Counties.

The  anti-incineration campaign in Carroll and Frederick counties is heating up. At the end of October, the Catoctin Group issued a Freedom of Information Act request to the Frederick Board of County Commissioners, in an effort to bring to light the process by which the incinerator plan was developed. Upon being informed that we would have to pay $500 up front to cover potential costs, and that some information could be “private and confidential,” we submitted a request for fee waiver,  stating: “If the business of government is to do the people’s work, then any information pertaining to a decision that ultimately affects taxpayers should be made available for public scrutiny.” We are awaiting a response.

 

The Plan

According to a Frederick County departmental staff report, the plan involves building a 1,500-ton-per-day, mass-burn incinerator next to the Ballenger Creek–McKinney Wastewater Treatment Plant on the Monocacy River. The facility would be designed, built, and operated by the Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority  and cost a reported $323 million (translate to at least $650 million over 20 years). The authority would finance the facility with tax-exempt and taxable revenue bonds. Frederick would earn a Renewable Energy Benefit of 5 percent of net electricity sales per year, paid by the authority, for hosting the facility.

The incinerator plan is based on the assumption that Frederick will provide 900 tons of waste per day, 100 tons more than the county exports to Virginia landfills now, and Carroll would provide roughly 20 tractor trailor truckloads of trash per day. The facility would burn biosolids and receive effluent from the waste treatment facility for use in operations. The authority would request approval from Frederick to “optimize energy recovery rates . . . by sub-contracting excess waste capacity to another Authority member,” according to the report.

 

The Raison d’Etre

This plan is happening in part because the State of Maryland recognizes municipal solid waste as a renewable resource. We need all of those working on energy issues at the state and national levels to help reverse this trend away from recycling and resource recovery. If that does not happen, the authority here, and others across the nation—encouraged by the Environmental Protection Agency—will work to build incinerators anywhere with sufficient populations to  support them. Incineration is being touted as a smart growth strategy for handling waste.

In its fall 2007 newsletter WasteWatch, the Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority invoked the Sierra Club’s aversion to unclean coal to bolster the Authority’s work: “Renewable energy, much touted for being cleaner and kinder to the climate, is catching on. The Authority’s three waste-to-energy facilities are the largest renewable energy providers in the State of Maryland.”

But the Authority does not quote the Club’s actual position regarding municipal incineration, which Sierra considers “not considered acceptable because of its adverse environmental and health effects and the destruction of materials that could be conserved while saving energy through other management methods.”

     By far the cleanest and kindest thing to do is to reduce energy use through conservation and resource recovery, things that Maryland, overall, doesn’t do very well. Half the counties have failed to reach the current 40 percent voluntary recovery rate set for 2005. According to the Pembina Institute, recycling a ton of mixed waste processed at the most energy-efficient mass-burn incinerator in Europe “would result in about 5.4, 1.6 and 2.6 times the energy savings than incinerating with electricity recovery; heat recovery; or combined electricity and heat respectively.” And contrary to proponents’ arguments, “Compared to coal fired technology [in Ontario], mass-burn incineration contributes about 33 percent and gasification about 90 percent more GHG emissions per Kwh of electricity produced.”

 

Citizens Strike Back

After studying solid waste management strategies for 10 months, the Carroll County Environmental Advisory Council presented its findings to the Carroll Board of County Commissioners. The council unanimously recommended a change in paradigm from solid-waste management to resource management and greater investment in reduction, reuse, and recycling efforts, including economic incentives and related educational programs to increase materials recovery. The council recommended that such a strategy be implemented and measured for effectiveness before any decision was made on waste-to-energy.

Residents in Frederick formed WasteStudyGroup.org to inform citizens about the economic and environmental consequences of incineration and alternative resource-management strategies. Meanwhile, the Frederick BOCC voted to hold a public hearing (held 7 p.m., 11 December 2007, Winchester Hall in downtown Frederick) about the incinerator plan near the proposed site. After that, they will decide whether to invite Carroll County to join in building a regional waste-to-energy facility.   n

 

For more information, contact Kim Stenley at kstenley at mcdaniel.edu.

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