By Van Smith
Published by City Paper, July 22, 2014
Drivers approaching the entrance of the former FMC Corp. chemical-making complex on Baltimore’s industrial Fairfield peninsula are welcomed by a large and well-lit green sign mounted on a landscaped terrace: “Future Home of Fairfield Renewable Energy Power Plant.” They’ve been so welcomed since at least June 2011, when Google Street View captured images of the same sign and the 90-acre site, where the only visible changes since are the removal of a smokestack and the installation of a series of metal beams on the property’s eastern edge.
On a recent visit, a car and a motorcycle were parked behind the closed gates at the entrance, the only signs of human presence. Other than two large buildings, the security post, and a few trailers, the property is a yawning expanse of concrete and grass pocked by a few tanks and the occasional pile of rubble.
This is not how the defunct FMC site, which the company mothballed in the mid-2000s, was supposed to look in the summer of 2014. By today, it was meant to house the largest waste-to-energy (WTE) incinerator in the country by far, and the first new one constructed in the U.S. since 1995. Each day, more than 230 trucks were supposed to be delivering 4,000 tons of refuse-derived fuel for incineration in boilers capable of generating nearly 160 megawatts (MWs) of power, enough to satisfy the electrical demands of more than 130,000 homes and more than double the WTE-generation capacity of Maryland’s three existing incinerators. Construction of the plant was supposed to have already generated 1,300 jobs, with another 600 derived from its operation, including almost 150 positions at the plant itself, where the annual payroll would be $12.5 million.
The still-dormant site must be a bit of an embarrassment for Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley (D), Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (D), U.S. Rep. C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger (D-Md.), FMC Corp. president and CEO Pierre Brondeau, United Steelworkers vice president Fred Redmond, former Brooklyn and Curtis Bay Coalition executive director Carol Eshelman, and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) deputy administrator Robert Perciasepe—and a source of great frustration for Patrick Mahoney, the president and CEO of the Albany, NY-based Energy Answers (EA), the company that wants to build and operate the plant on FMC Corp.’s property.
On Oct. 18, 2010, after EA’s proposed plant had gotten all the necessary regulatory go-aheads, each of those leaders sat on a temporary stage at the FMC Corp. site and rose, one by one, to a podium, giving grandiose speeches at the project’s ceremonial kickoff event, portions of which are memorialized in a video on EA’s website. They extolled the virtues of a technology that, as the WTE industry group Energy Recovery Council claims in its publications, each year in the U.S. burns more than 30 million tons of trash that would otherwise go to landfills in order to sell vast quantities of electricity while recovering hundreds of thousands of tons of metals for recycling.
O’Malley, declaring that “Maryland’s economy is an innovation economy,” stood to say the plant “fits directly into this innovation economy and where we’re going in this fight for a cleaner, greener, more sustainable future with more jobs.” Rawlings-Blake said, “I’m proud, very proud, to have this project in Baltimore City,” and deemed the event “truly a great day in Baltimore,” claiming it would provide “jobs for skilled union workers” and serve as “a national model for green, renewable energy.” After Ruppersberger said that “this is the way that we need to do things in our community, in our country,” Perciasepe added that “it’s projects like this that show the right thing to do for the environment is also the right thing to do for the economy. We don’t have to choose between the two.”
On the day of the event, coverage of the project showed up on the trade website Waste Business Journal, announcing that “construction of the power plant is expected to begin in December 2010, with completion and commencement of commercial operations by December 2013.” Today, EA’s brochure about the Fairfield project predicts it will be in operation in the spring of 2016.
Beset by construction delays, financing difficulties, and an ongoing permit violation for which fines are currently mounting at the rate of $25,000 per day, EA’s Fairfield project is now suffering a public-image threat. A vocal, impassioned group of students at a nearby high school has targeted the project as fundamentally unjust, and they’ve gotten a lot of attention by invoking human rights when arguing their community has enough pollution already without an additional load from EA’s proposed new smokestacks, which will be allowed to emit more brain-damaging mercury than all of Maryland’s coal-burning power plants combined.
The planned and permitted incinerator’s problems continue despite Maryland’s best efforts to help: In 2011, O’Malley signed into law a measure making EA’s prospective product–WTE-generated electricity–a preferred commodity on the energy markets, as it is in most states around the country. Even with this boost, though, proposed WTE generators in Maryland have struggled to come on line. In addition to EA’s long-delayed Fairfield project (the planned plant is pictured above), plans for a proposed WTE incinerator in Frederick that earlier this year finally received its permit now seems on the verge of collapse.
City Paper asked EA to explain the project’s current status and how the company is handling community opposition, but received no response. By delving into the public record and talking to people knowledgeable about the project and WTE in Maryland, though, it becomes clear that there is a fundamental dilemma with the technology: It needs special treatment from the government to work, yet, by working, it competes with cleaner alternatives. Its special status on the electricity-supply markets puts it in direct competition with non-polluting renewables, and its raw material is trash, of which it needs a large and constant supply, and that’s precisely the resource that the recycling and composting industries need to thrive.
Greg Smith, a longtime anti-burn advocate who heads a Takoma Park-based nonprofit called Community Research, offers a nuanced counterpoint to Perciasepe’s win-win rhetoric: “If you do the right thing environmentally, you’re likely going to be able to do the right thing fiscally and economically, but if you do the wrong thing environmentally, you’re more than likely going to have a really hard time doing the right thing fiscally and economically.” While O’Malley says WTE fits in with Maryland’s innovation economy, maybe, without new WTE capacity, Maryland will have a better chance of growing cleaner, greener ways to innovate on the waste-management and electricity-generating fronts than building more mercury-emitting trash-burning plants.
At first, it seemed that EA’s Fairfield project was wired for success.
Certainly, the display of impassioned support from government, union, and community leaders at its kickoff ceremony in Oct. 2010 gave that impression. The show was all the more impressive because it came right on the heels of serious controversies over the project at the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC), which cleared it to proceed with an August 2010 order granting a required “certificate of public convenience and necessity.”
The PSC’s order had prompted a lawsuit by some powerful national and local players in the solid-waste arena: the National Solid Wastes Management Association and Wheelabrator Baltimore, the owner of the city’s existing trash-burning incinerator, commonly known as the BRESCO plant. They contended, unsuccessfully, that a July 2010 settlement agreement between the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE), the Department of Natural Resources Power Plant Research Project (PPRP), and EA illegally gave the company waivers from legal requirements that prohibit solid-waste incinerators from being built within a mile of a school and that require such facilities to obtain a refuse-disposal permit, like Wheelabrator has for the BRESCO plant. While they dismissed the lawsuit a few months after filing it, their point was clear: EA was getting preferential treatment.
Then came O’Malley’s 2011 decision to sign the bill making WTE part of Maryland’s renewable-power mix as a Tier I resource under the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). This was key, since Maryland’s RPS program gives power-supply companies credits for buying electricity from renewable sources, and by law the amount coming from such sources must increase in stages to 18 percent by 2022, with an additional two percent coming from solar energy by 2020. As a Tier 1 resource, WTE now gets counted the same as—and, in essence, competes with—power generation from wind, biomass (such as burning chicken manure), landfill gas, and small hydroelectric power.
After these successes for EA, on December 29, 2011, the first signs of trouble emerged. Under the conditions of the PSC order, the Fairfield project was required to start construction by Feb. 5, 2012, and EA didn’t think they could make it. As EA’s Baltimore attorneys, Todd Chason and Michael C. Powell, explained in a PSC filing made that day:
“Energy Answers has worked diligently and in good faith to construct the Fairfield Facility, but to date has been able to enter into contracts for some, but not all, of its electric output and fuel requirements. Until additional contractual commitments are secured, financing cannot be obtained. Efforts to sign contracts are ongoing, but may not be finalized until after the deadline.”
Though EA’s energy-sales contracts weren’t enough to qualify for financing, the filing explained that EA “has made progress” by “executing a deal for 25 MWs with the Baltimore Regional Cooperative Purchasing Committee.” The committee is a group of local-government entities—Baltimore City and Baltimore, Anne Arundel, Howard, Harford, and Carroll counties, as well as their respective public-school systems, along with the City of Annapolis—organized under the Baltimore Metropolitan Council to make purchases together to get better deals on goods and services. In addition, the filing said EA had gotten “a Letter of Intent with Maryland’s Department of General Services for up to an additional 10 MWs,” while it had “secured a waste/fuel sourcing agreement with the Maryland Environmental Service,” a self-financed government agency that serves as an environmental contractor for other government agencies and private entities.
Clearly, agreements from public agencies to purchase about 15 percent, or possibly 20 percent, of the Fairfield plant’s expected generation capacity, together with another agreement to get an indeterminate amount of refuse from another public agency to serve as fuel, was not enough to impress whatever financiers were thinking about backing the plant’s construction.
Yet, the filing continued, “since first coming to Maryland in 2008, Energy Answers has spent millions of dollars developing this project and continues to do so,” while also “working to reform Maryland’s energy policies to promote the Fairfield Facility, including participation in last year’s successful effort to make refuse-derived fuel a Tier 1 resource.” In other words, paying engineers, lawyers, and lobbyists to plan the project, navigate the regulatory framework, and urge the passage of favorable laws is expensive.
Ultimately, after environmental groups, the NAACP, and local government leaders in Anne Arundel County weighed in, on Dec. 10, 2012, the PSC gave EA an 18-month extension on its construct-start deadline, to Aug. 6, 2013.
At this point, the resilience of EA’s Fairfield project to the near-death experience started to prompt amusing observations among regulators. One of the key players is the PPRP, which advises the PSC as to the suitability of proposed new power generators. PPRP’s administrator for atmospheric sciences John Sherwell, an old hand at the agency who has been there since 1993, wrote an email to colleagues in early Sept. 2012, summing up the sentiment: “EA just keeps going—like the energizer bunny’s evil twin.”
“The governor,” Sherwell explains in a recent interview to give a bird’s-eye view of the project’s progress, “has been pushing renewables, waste-to-energy, which is now considered to be a renewable energy source, and he had been encouraging Energy Answers to come and build this facility. The official goal for the companies actually delivering electricity to your door is to be 20 percent from renewables by 2022,” he says, “and the regulations allow the renewable energy sources to be from outside Maryland, but as much as possible they would like for them to be from inside Maryland–and the Energy Answers plant would be big for a waste-to-energy facility, roughly twice the size of BRESCO, a big undertaking. So they are very keen to support that, though wind and solar, particularly offshore wind, are the preference.
“But it was a controversial project,” Sherwell continues, “as these always are wherever they are proposed, and it’s been start-and-stop ever since. A lot of the delays were due to working through the issues to get the emissions lower, because when the permitting first came along for Energy Answers, Maryland was regulating emissions for coal plants more strictly than for waste-to-energy, so there was a push for stricter controls, and now they are lower than the industry standards. Then, after the company got an extension for starting construction, they were right on the edge of needing to get another extension when they began construction on one of the boilers last summer.”
Sherwell then starts to explain the next hang-up for EA’s Fairfield plant, saying “they failed to obtain the necessary emission offsets recently,” but points out that “I’m not sure how MDE enforces that. We’ll see what they can work out.”
Turns out, those emission offsets Sherwell mentioned are a big deal.
Under the terms EA agreed to before the PSC granted its order to proceed, the company needed to purchase about 1,500 tons of the offsets, covering nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, fine particulate matter, and sulfur dioxide, prior to starting construction of the Fairfield facility. The offsets, in essence, are tradable units of pollution rights created under the federal Clean Air Act, allowing a polluter who ceases polluting in one location to sell them to a proposed polluter in another location.
On June 2, an offset seller in Texas, the chemical company Sasol North America, contacted MDE to report that EA had failed to exercise its option to buy nearly 80 tons of emissions offsets from Sasol, according to a June 19 letter to EA from Roberta James, an assistant Maryland attorney general representing MDE’s Air and Radiation Management Administration. That failure, the letter explained, violates Maryland air-quality laws, so EA “must discontinue all construction operation” at the Fairfield site until the company “is able to demonstrate to the Department’s satisfaction that it has replaced all the emissions offsets for which Energy Answers had an option to purchase from Sasol.”
While James’ letter points out that EA could be on the hook for $25,000 for each day the violation continued, it also offered “an opportunity to resolve, in advance of litigation, a civil penalty claim” over the issue. According to a July 14 email to City Paper from MDE spokesman Jay Apperson, “we verified that construction did stop,” and “we have offered the company the opportunity to pursue settlement,” but “no settlement has been reached” and “the company still must satisfy the requirement for offsets before construction can resume.”
“This certainly indicates that there is a problem,” says Leah Kelly, an attorney with the Washington, D.C.-based Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) who has made PSC filings over EA’s Fairfield project and monitors the WTE situation in Maryland. “For us, it’s a really big concern,” she adds, pointing out that the offset purchases are “a key provision of the Clean Air Act.” And, since Baltimore is beset with ozone-laden air that impinges on public health and aggravates asthma sufferers, EA’s “failure to obtain the offsets is very important for us, and anyone else concerned about air quality.”
To Community Research’s Smith, EA’s failure to purchase the offsets, in conjunction with the construction delays—“they were supposed to have started construction by last August, and now it’s a year later, and they’ve begun work on one of the burners?”—makes it seem like the Fairfield project “doesn’t have any legs.” The Maryland coordinator of the national environmental group Clean Water Action (CWA), Andy Galli, who was the first outside party to file a notice of interest with the PSC after EA’s initial May 2009 filing to seek permission to build the Fairfield project, agrees. “It makes it seem that they are struggling financially,” Galli says.
“When this came out,” Galli adds, “I heard from allies in Puerto Rico, where Energy Answers is trying to build another project, and they were happy about what was happening here because it seemed like the company was struggling.”
For the Fairfield project’s public image, news of the offset violation came at a particularly bad time. A group of students at Benjamin Franklin High School, a Curtis Bay public school located about a mile west of the planned plant, began attracting public attention last fall over concerns about the incinerator’s allowable emissions. The students argued that EA’s plant would pose additional public-health risks in a community already beset with pollution sources, including from the nation’s largest medical-waste incinerator, operated just a few miles away on Hawkins Point by Curtis Bay Medical Waste Services.
The students’ voices had been resonating louder and louder as fall and winter gave way to spring and summer. Press coverage by City Paper, Baltimore Brew, the Real News Network, the Baltimore Sun, and local television stations focused public attention on their campaign, which included hundreds of supporters marching from the school to the Fairfield site in December, testimony in support of an environmental-justice bill before the Maryland General Assembly in February, and a May 27 presentation to the Baltimore City public-schools board that included rap performances and a Shakespearean soliloquy and drew a standing ovation from board members. Despite the Brooklyn and Curtis Bay Coalition’s formal support for the project under Eshelman, who has since retired and did not respond to City Paper’s effort to contact her, the students’ efforts were giving the distinct impression that the locals were turning against the project.
“The real voice of the residents is being heard now—the students,” says Rebecca Kolberg, a science-savvy citizen activist from Anne Arundel County who lives on the Patapsco River near the Brandon Shores coal-burning power plant. Kolberg says that last November she and Mary Rosso, a former state delegate and longtime environmental activist, “met with the kids on a Saturday out in front of the incinerator site, and we were so impressed that that many would turn out on a cold weekend day. The community’s early backing of Energy Answers may be dissipating now. People are beginning to realize that it’s about the dirtiest kind of power you can produce, plus you have a bunch of diesel trucks that’ll be hauling the trash in there. The kids know their stuff.”
The students began looking into the planned EA incinerator after Greg Sawtell—a social-work student and former Peace Corps volunteer who works for United Workers, a Baltimore-based human rights group that advocates for low-wage workers—came to the high school about three years ago to start a human-rights study project called Free Your Voice (FYV). It has since grown to include about 15 core student leaders who meet every week at the high school, Sawtell says, with “a network of students, parents and teachers that they have built that’s much larger.” City Paper tried unsuccessfully to reach Destiny Watford, an 18-year-old Benjamin Franklin graduate now studying at Towson University who has emerged as FYV’s strongest voice, and so has relied on Sawtell’s input to learn about the group.
“We didn’t start the incinerator project as an anti-incinerator campaign,” Sawtell explains, “but a human-rights project that focused on this issue.” As the students dug in on the topic, he says, “they realized that Maryland was allowing the nation’s largest trash incinerator to be built right down the street from the high school, and they wanted to understand how that decision was made, since this is already an overburdened community that has the biggest medical waste incinerator in the country and there are 18 other schools that are three miles away or less. The students started to look at the issues of waste and energy in a way that is more comprehensive: We’re going all in on this giant incinerator project rather than looking at zero-waste strategies that would create recycling and composting jobs that would make it unnecessary. So they began trying to stop it.”
They wouldn’t be the first. As Smith told a Maryland General Assembly committee during a hearing on an anti-incinerator bill in March, “I’ve done this work for 25 years,” and “I’ve never encountered a local community, once they’ve began to learn about the potential impact side, say, ‘Yeah, come give us this large polluting industrial facility so we can make our kids sicker.’” Instead, he added, “they typically try to fight these off, and they’re doing it on a very unlevel playing field.” PPRP’s Sherwell points out that WTE proposals tend to draw opposition, and he says EA’s was delayed in part by “other parties taking pot shots at the project.” Among them were established environmental groups: EIP, CWA, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, and Environment Maryland, which all filed public comments during the PSC proceedings.
But FYV was coming in late in the game, years after EA’s permits were issued and public-comment periods in regulatory proceedings were closed. So the students came up with a different, nuts-and-bolts strategy: try to undermine the incinerator’s business plan.
Energy Answer’s lawyers, in their December 2011 PSC filing asking for an extension to the start-construction deadline, referred EA’s 25 MWs energy-buying contract with local government entities organized as the BRCPC. The students started to target that contract, telling the Baltimore City school board, for instance, that they could opt out of purchasing the power if EA’s plant didn’t start delivering electricity to them within 48 months of the agreement. According to Sawtell, that deadline arrives next April, well before EA’s current forecast for starting operations at the end of 2016.
Baltimore City school board member Cheryl Casciani says the students’ late-May presentation at the school-board meeting was “very impressive,” that they “had a command of the facts” which made her think, “good for them, they deserve an audience.” As for students’ request the school system opt out of the electricity-purchase contract with EA, she says “we don’t have a position on this right now” because “we are still very much in the information-gathering mode.” The contract “was part of this larger purchasing consortium,” she adds, and there are “a lot of factors involved in the decision to enter into it,” so there is “a lot more work to understand the contract, and we are doing that.”
Opting out of the purchase contract with EA was not the only proposition the students made during their presentation, Casciani says. The other was an invitation to a site visit, and “within a few weeks, a few of us made a very good site visit to Curtis Bay,” she adds. In addition to meeting the students to take a look around the neighborhood, they went to the Fairfield site, and Casciani says she was struck because “Energy Answers, when you are standing at the site, unless I was missing something, there’s no evidence of construction.” Then, Casciani recalls, “the day after our site visit, the articles appeared” in the press about EA’s failure to purchase the emission offsets, prompting her to think, “what’s up with Energy Answers missing all these deadlines? What does it mean?”
Other than serving as a Baltimore City school-board member, Casciani also chairs Baltimore City’s Commission on Sustainability, which, along with city’s Office of Sustainability, is tasked with conceiving and implementing the Baltimore Sustainability Plan to guide the city’s efforts to grow in an environmentally and economically sustainable fashion. Casciani says some of the FYV students have also gained an audience with the commission and, as with the school board, the commission is following up on their concerns. In particular, with respect to the Fairfield project’s delayed construction, Casciani says the “commission is asking the regulatory bodies, what does this mean for the ongoing viability of this plant? And we’re waiting to hear back.”
In the big picture, though, Casciani says, “I wish the commission had taken a position” on the 2011 bill making WTE a renewable form of energy, “which I consider to be a very key decision that opened a door for this kind of thing, so I regret not being more active in Annapolis on that. We have found our sea legs on this stuff now, but on this one, we didn’t.” While there “is nothing in Baltimore’s sustainability plan to say the way to solve our issues is incineration,” she continues, “it does call for relying more on renewable energy, and now it is considered part of that. We are very much leaning toward a more zero-waste strategy for the city, with a much more aggressive, progressive approach to waste management, which would make this moot because it would starve incinerators. But this bill changed the equation.”
The question is whether a student-led anti-incinerator campaign, along with broader misgivings about WTE generation in Maryland generally, can change it back.
When O’Malley signed the 2011 WTE-as-a-renewable bill, he issued a public statement.
“Despite the success of recycling programs in our State,” he explained, “the reality is that Marylanders generate tons of solid waste each and every day. If there is no waste-to-energy facility available, these tons of trash are simply dumped into landfills, no value is derived from the waste, and our State continues to rely on coal-fired generation to account for 55% of our energy needs. Therefore, the question is not whether waste-to-energy facilities are better for the environment than coal-fired generation or better for the environment than the land filling of trash, but rather whether waste-to-energy facilities are better than the combination of coal and land filling, based on the best available science. The answer to that question is a qualified ‘yes.’”
The “qualified” aspect of his approval of the bill had to do with mercury emissions, which he called “the most worrisome aspect of waste-to-energy facilities.” But clean-energy and sustainability advocates point to what they consider a fundamental flaw in the governor’s reasoning: that waste not burned for energy would end up in landfills.
“It’s a false dichotomy that it’s either burn it or landfill it,” says EIP’s Kelly. “You should put in better requirements for recycling and waste reduction and composting before incineration is turned to as a waste-management practice,” she adds.
What Kelly is referring to is a zero-waste strategy, and the O’Malley administration nominally embraces it. In April, MDE issued a draft document entitled “Zero Waste Maryland: The O’Malley/Brown Administration’s Plan to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle Nearly All Waste Generated in Maryland by 2040.” It explains that “zero waste is an ambitious, long-term goal to nearly eliminate waste sent to landfills and incinerators,” and quotes the Zero Waste International Alliance’s advice that getting to that goal will require “designing and managing products and processes to systematically avoid and eliminate the volume and toxicity of waste and materials, conserve and recover all resources, and not burn or bury them.”
Clearly, the zero-waste strategy is at odds with O’Malley’s pro-burn policies to support WTE. The document ignores this conflict by openly embracing WTE as a preferred alternative landfilling.
City Paper asked the campaign of Maryland lieutenant governor Anthony Brown, the Democratic contender of governor in the coming November elections, “what are Anthony Brown’s policy views of WTE as an answer to Maryland’s energy needs, and do they differ from what O’Malley pursued as governor?” The answer came from Jared Smith, Brown’s deputy campaign manager, in the form of a statement attributed to Brown that avoided the question.
“Renewable energy will remain a critical part of our effort to create jobs for Marylanders while building a strong and sustainable future for our state,” the statement reads. “We will work in partnership with the private sector to expand Tier 1 renewable energy production in Maryland while ensuring that local communities have a strong voice and input throughout the process. And as we look to the future, I am committed to neighborhood-focused sustainability that helps grow our economy and gives consumers affordable, environmentally friendly energy options.”
The campaign spokesman of Republican gubernatorial candidate Larry Hogan, Adam Dubitsky, engaged in an off-the-record discussion of the topic with City Paper, but it did not result in an attributable statement.
No wonder, then, that while WTE opponents’ arguments for cleaner, more sustainable approaches would seem to invite more job-creating innovation than simply burning mountains of trash, not all of them are holding their breath for Maryland to ratchet back its legislated preference for WTE generation.
“We can’t fight climate change by incentivizing emissions producers,” says Smith, but “I’m not prepared to say the tide is turning” because “we keep having to work hard to stop some really bad pro-burn legislation brought by Energy Answers or Covanta,” another WTE company that runs the Montgomery County Resource Recovery Facility. For an example, he points to a 2013 bill that he says sought to assure additional trash flows to plants by penalizing counties that failed to send all of their post-recycled trash for WTE incineration. As it stands, he says, “hundreds of thousands of tons of compostable and recyclable resources are getting burned every year in Maryland, destroying dollars and jobs, because composting and recycling would produce more local jobs than either landfilling or incinerating.”
Galli harbors hopes that a bill to repeal the Tier 1 designation for WTE will arrive in Annapolis, or perhaps a measure that would “move it back to Tier 2 over time,” where it will not command the preferred credits that Tier 1 renewables do, “or maybe have an efficiency standard that plants would have to meet to be eligible for Tier 1.” In the meantime, Galli says he’d like to see the legislature pass a measure similar to a Delaware law that prohibits the siting of new incinerators within three miles of homes, schools, or hospitals.
Such a law would stop EA’s Fairfield plant in its tracks. But in Frederick, a long-proposed WTE plant appears to be on the rocks even without restrictive legislation. It has been in the works since the mid-2000s, and early this year received its permit from MDE—but then, in April, Carroll County, which had signed on to be a 40-percent partner in the project with Frederick County, decided to pay a $1 million penalty to withdraw from the deal. Now, come July 31, Frederick County could follow suit without penalty, according to a recent editorial in the Frederick News-Post.
“If we had to bet,” the editorial states, “our money would now be on this highly controversial project not going forward. If it plays out that way, it will be due in large measure to those many in the community who worked long and diligently to expose the weaknesses in this plan, the financial liability that Frederick County could incur, and the many health, safety and environmental issues they believed it presented.”
Carroll County, Galli explains, “has commissioners who are politically conservative, but they became advocates against the incinerator, saying how unwise that investment was, that we don’t have to do this, do some of these other things, like reduce, recycle, reuse, instead. Politics makes strange bedfellows.”
“It’s a sleeping giant, though,” Galli continues. “Companies continually suggest and propose to build these things, and you have to be in these battles for the long haul, because the companies have the ability to keep it going at a slow pace.”
As for the EA Fairfield project, Galli says, “Free Your Voice is making great inroads,” and “the company floundering the way it has has added to the idea that this might not be the way to go.” Kolberg, meanwhile, suggests that, thanks to FYV, it’s EA that should be worried about what lies ahead.
“If I were Energy Answers,” she says, “I’d know I’m in it for the long haul, because these kids ain’t going away.”