Officials in holding pattern on waste-to-energy

Young: Incinerator's future is uncertain
Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
10/06/2013
An effort to build a waste-to-energy incinerator in Frederick County remains on ice as the state weighs a trio of environmental permits. County officials expected the permitting process would be wrapped up by August. More than a month later, they are not sure how much longer it will take. With leaders from Frederick County, Carroll County and possibly other jurisdictions locked in a holding pattern, Commissioners President Blaine Young says the fate of the waste-to-energy project is unclear. "I think it's a coin toss," Young said. "I don't feel confident to say the project is dead. I don't feel confident to say the project is a go." Frederick County leaders are waiting to determine whether it still makes financial sense to build a facility that would consume trash to generate electricity. Carroll County, a partner in the project, wants to back out, but must find a replacement or pay a fine. And no replacement partner is going to show serious interest until the project secures its approvals from the Maryland Department of the Environment, Young said."Nobody really knows where these permits are at and where the issue is here," he said. A spokeswoman for the state agency wrote in late September that "MDE is still working through the permit process" and doesn't have a set date for completion.

Clean Chesapeake Coalition faces challenges changing minds

Carroll County Times
Timothy Sandoval
09/22/2013
The Clean Chesapeake Coalition, which Carroll County joined last year, includes six other rural counties in Maryland, and attempts to change conventional wisdom on the Chesapeake Bay cleanup and restoration efforts. The coalition advocates for cost-effective policies that will help the bay, pointing out the issues concerning the Conowingo Dam, which they say releases the largest amount of pollution into the bay. They argue the dam should be the priority, downplaying the effectiveness of environmental polices handed down by the state. But some have questioned the effectiveness of such a coalition, including one commissioner in Carroll County. Commissioner Haven Shoemaker, R-District 2, who voted against joining the coalition, said at the time of the vote that he was unsure the state would stop its focus on septic system regulations and other mandates it is looking to impose.

Raining on the 'rain tax'

08/01/2013
According to a new report from the Maryland Public Policy Institute, Maryland’s so-called “rain tax” is poorly conceived, has been ineptly handled by some jurisdictions, and may not live up to its billing as an important weapon in the fight to clean up and save the Chesapeake Bay. MPPI’s John W. Walters, who wrote the report, concludes, “Despite its apparent environmental pedigree, the rain tax is basically just an additional property tax.” The report discusses many aspects of the rain tax, including how various jurisdictions have decided to implement the program. Thomas A. Firey, also of MPPI, edited Walters’ report and was quoted in a recent story in The Daily Record. His assessment of how it’s all going so far: “It’s really important to understand, at least in theory, why this could be good, but why a lot of this is getting screwed up.”

Raining on the ‘rain tax’

08/01/2013
According to a new report from the Maryland Public Policy Institute, Maryland’s so-called “rain tax” is poorly conceived, has been ineptly handled by some jurisdictions, and may not live up to its billing as an important weapon in the fight to clean up and save the Chesapeake Bay. MPPI’s John W. Walters, who wrote the report, concludes, “Despite its apparent environmental pedigree, the rain tax is basically just an additional property tax.” The report discusses many aspects of the rain tax, including how various jurisdictions have decided to implement the program. Thomas A. Firey, also of MPPI, edited Walters’ report and was quoted in a recent story in The Daily Record. His assessment of how it’s all going so far: “It’s really important to understand, at least in theory, why this could be good, but why a lot of this is getting screwed up.”

Local heritage tourism projects get $360K in grants

Frederick News Post
Ike Wilson
07/16/2013
Projects, programs, sites and organizations in portions of the Heart of the Civil War Heritage area in Frederick, Washington and Carroll counties became $360,415 richer last week as the result of grants from the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority. The grants support heritage tourism projects and activities that expand economic development and tourism-related job creation throughout the state, according to a statement from the Heritage Areas Authority. The agency oversees Maryland’s 12 locally administered, state-certified heritage areas. Among the local grants are $75,000 to Middletown to buy the old Memorial Hall for preservation and $30,415 for revitalization of the Emmitsburg square. Monocacy National Battlefield also gets $15,000 for programming and exhibits for the battlefield’s 150th anniversary in July 2014.

WTE endgame

Frederick News Post
Fred Ugast
07/09/2013
It’s no surprise that the Carroll County Commissioners voted last month to earmark $3 million in reserves to pay a termination penalty if they withdraw from the partnership with Frederick County to build a bi-county waste-to-energy facility and a suitable replacement partner does not step in. Those commissioners made clear long ago that a majority will not support Carroll County’s participation in the project. But by putting their money where their mouth is, the commissioners have taken a small but important step in moving toward the endgame of the divisive and unfortunate saga that this project represents. Sometime in the next few weeks or months, the Maryland Department of the Environment is likely to issue the permits necessary to allow construction of the project to move forward and set the stage for the crucial step of preparing and selling the bonds to finance it. I won’t rehash the pros and cons of this project. Since the 2005 Beck Report on Frederick County’s waste disposal options, this issue has been debated in great detail on almost every conceivable front, including its potential environmental, economic, public health and historical/cultural impacts. People whose opinions I respect have come down on both sides of this debate, and we can stipulate that this is a complex and difficult subject. I think building it would be a huge financial blunder, but I can respect that others think those concerns are overblown or trumped by other elements. I don’t know whether it will ultimately get built or not, but I hope we can cool the rhetoric enough for the Frederick County Commissioners to take another look and use Carroll County’s decision as an opportunity rather than a challenge. While WTE supporters can legitimately point to costs and risks of not moving this project forward after all these years, the financial risk to taxpayers deserves a fresh review using revised assumptions and greater sensitivity analysis than presented to date.

Let's follow Carroll County's lead on incinerator

Frederick News Post
Patrice Gallagher
07/04/2013
The No Incinerator Alliance wholeheartedly supports the recent decision by the Carroll County Commissioners to withdraw from the proposed waste-to-energy incinerator project. With this decision, those commissioners are recognizing the fact that the old technology of burning waste is not a good business plan when less costly alternatives are available. The NIA encourages the Frederick County Commissioners to take this opportunity to re-examine the assumptions on which the incinerator project was based. The financial projections made by the Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority are unrealistic and not a basis on which to commit Frederick County to decades of burdensome debt (see no-incinerator.org for details) and exorbitant operating costs.

Let’s follow Carroll County’s lead on incinerator

Frederick News Post
Patrice Gallagher
07/04/2013
The No Incinerator Alliance wholeheartedly supports the recent decision by the Carroll County Commissioners to withdraw from the proposed waste-to-energy incinerator project. With this decision, those commissioners are recognizing the fact that the old technology of burning waste is not a good business plan when less costly alternatives are available. The NIA encourages the Frederick County Commissioners to take this opportunity to re-examine the assumptions on which the incinerator project was based. The financial projections made by the Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority are unrealistic and not a basis on which to commit Frederick County to decades of burdensome debt (see no-incinerator.org for details) and exorbitant operating costs.

Carroll preparing to pay $3 million penalty fee to avoid building incinerator

Carroll County Times
Christian Alexandersen
06/28/2013
While the Carroll County Board of Commissioners still hopes to avoid building a proposed waste-to-energy incinerator project with Frederick County, it has begun preparing itself to pay a $3 million penalty fee. The board voted 3-1, with Commissioner Doug Howard abstaining, to set aside $3 million to pay the penalty fee that would be needed only if Frederick cannot find a replacement for Carroll’s 40 percent partnership in the incinerator. The $3 million penalty would come from the county’s Fiscal Year 2013 reserve for contingencies fund.

Carroll County officials to consider departure from incinerator pact

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
06/27/2013
Carroll County commissioners today might map their exit from a partnership with Frederick County on a regional waste-to-energy incinerator. Though several Carroll County commissioners want to bow out of the project, the timing of a potential withdrawal is a point of contention. Some board members want to call it quits despite possibly incurring a $3 million penalty, while others hope to hold off until they can avoid the cost, said Carroll County Commissioner Richard Rothschild. Today's board meeting will allow commissioners to discuss whether to set aside funds for a potential penalty payment should they end their involvement with the incinerator. Frederick County Commissioners President Blaine Young said he would bear no ill will toward Carroll County leaders if they opt out of the project to build an incinerator. But Frederick County needs Carroll County to decide one way or the other, he said. "Their problem is they want to get out of the responsibility of paying anything. It doesn't work that way," Young said.

Carroll commissioners to discuss waste-to-energy, stormwater management fee

Carroll County Times
Christian Alexandersen
06/23/2013
The Carroll County Board of Commissioners is scheduled to discuss and possibly make a decision on the waste-to-energy proposal Thursday. In June 2012, the board sent a letter to its Frederick County counterparts suggesting each party go their own way when it comes to plans for a waste-to-energy incinerator. In August, Frederick County sent a letter back stating that Carroll may seek alternatives while it looks for substitute equity partners to replace Carroll in the contract between the two counties. Frederick County has yet to find a partner to replace Carroll.

Wrong on waste-to-energy details

Frederick News Post
Caroliine Eader
06/16/2013
Harvey Alter continues to make it clear he’s not read any of the contracts pertaining to the Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority’s proposed trash incinerator, which is to be located in Frederick (“Halloween Garbage”, May 12). And because of his lack of understanding he continues to write fiction. For example, it is not completely true when he writes the incinerator’s costs are to be covered by the tipping fee charged at the landfill. The tipping fees will be whatever the market can bear, and most likely the majority of the costs will be covered by the System Benefit Charge (SBC), which is a mandatory fee found on each and every property tax bill in the county.

Comments due on incinerator

Carroll County Times
05/19/2013
Residents deserve to know where the board stands, and if there has been any change of heart concerning getting out of the contract. Opponents to the airport expansion were surprised when the issue suddenly appeared on the commissioners’ agenda with no advance warning and the board quickly reversed its earlier decision with little opportunity for public input. It isn’t a far stretch, given their history of secrecy and penchant for closed-door deal-making, to consider the possibility of something like that happening again with the incinerator.

Frederick Public will pay for incinerator

Frederick News Post
Matthew Seubert
05/18/2013
Where will all this money come from? The county and the NEA claim it will come from electricity generated by burning trash, the sale of recovered metals and tip fees. Nearly all of the electricity generated is contractually pledged first to Wheelabrator to cover operating costs. Little, if any, will arc its way into county coffers. The real answer to the question is much simpler. The money will come from a tax on every property owner in the county in the form of a system benefit charge on our property tax bill, which can be increased by the county at will.

The $500M boondoggle

(Sometimes doing something is a lot worse than doing nothing. This is one of those times.)
Frederick News Post
Marta Mossburg
05/08/2013
The fact that it is even being considered at a time when cities and states across the country are buckling under a combined $7.3 trillion debt load makes the project make even less sense, especially for the alleged fiscal conservatives in office.

Incinerator would tower over historic Monocacy battlefield

Gazette
Sherry Greenfield
04/25/2013
The Monocacy National Battlefield has again been identified as one of Maryland’s most endangered historical sites because of its proximity to a planned incinerator in Frederick County. In 2008, the Civil War Preservation Trust, a nonprofit organization devoted to the preservation of Civil War battlefields, named the park an endangered site because of how close it would be to the proposed “waste-to-energy facility” that will burn trash to produce electricity. This time, Preservation Maryland — a nonprofit organization founded in 1931 to advocate for historic sites, neighborhoods and landscapes in the state — has also recently named the battlefield one of the state’s most endangered historical sites because the incinerator’s 270-foot smokestack will be visible from across the battlefield.

Contract details bedevil incinerator opponents; county seeks opinions

Frederick News Post
Patti S. Borda
04/09/2013
The contract Frederick County has for a $400 million waste-to-energy incinerator does not say what the county believes it does, a variety of opponents keeps insisting. They are wrong, the Board of County Commissioners keeps responding: wrong about the lease agreement with the Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority, wrong about the $400 million debt responsibility, wrong about who has to deal with all the incinerator ash. Commissioners say they will verify their position before carrying out the contract with the authority to build the incinerator. The incinerator is supposed to take 1,500 tons of trash and burn it into electricity, which will generate profit for the authority, reduce the county’s electrical cost and cut back on landfill use. The contract assumes electrical rates, trash supply and landfill availability that are not realistic or good for the county, said Bruce Holstein, a retired government accountant.

Answering a burning question

Gazette
04/04/2013
Like a slow-burning fire that won’t go out, the continuous spontaneous combustion of questions surrounding the construction of a waste-to-energy incinerator in Frederick County has taken on a life of its own. Since first being proposed eight years ago as a way to mitigate the high cost of hauling away trash from the county’s full landfill on Reichs Ford Road, the $527 million project has been vetted, debated, twisted, turned, politicized and eviscerated over time. Yet we still don’t know for sure that, once built, whether the facility will be an economic savior or a nightmare, with the county already slated to put up $316 million just for construction costs alone.

No Better Off

Frederick News Post
Sally Sorbello
03/16/2013
In response to the Feb. 26 article, “Incinerator faces numbers crunch,” I was struck by a quote from Commissioner Gray. Mr. Gray said that “We were not going to be a dumping ground for other people’s trash.” The reality is that the proposed 1,500-ton-per-day incinerator depends on Frederick to be a dumping ground for other people’s trash. Frederick and partner Carroll County together produce less than half the trash needed to supply the incinerator its minimum tonnage, so the Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority (NMWDA) plans for Frederick to import up to 350,000 tons of trash and tires per year to achieve the contracted requirement to burn in excess of 500,000 tons annually.

Waste to energy: the story so far

Frederick News Post
01/31/2013
May 2000 — Frederick County hires consultants to evaluate landfill capacity problems. February 2006 — County commissioners begin procurement process for waste-to-energy incinerator. March 2007 — County Commissioner David Gray and Michael Marschner, director of the county's Utilities and Solid Waste Management Division, visit seven European countries to investigate waste-to-energy technology. April 2008 — Carroll and Frederick county commissioners discuss partnership on incinerator to burn 1,500 tons of trash per day to generate electricity. February 2009 — More than 200 people attend public hearings on incinerator, the majority in opposition. April 2009 — A state Senate committee rejects a bill that would prohibit incinerators near battlefields. July 2009 — Frederick and Carroll counties agree to build a regional trash incinerator at the McKinney Industrial site near Buckeystown Pike. October 2009 — Frederick County Planning Commission determines the waste-to-energy plant is not consistent with the county's comprehensive plan. November 2009 — County commissioners appeal planning commission’s decision in Frederick County Circuit Court. Planning commission reverses its earlier decision on the county's plans to build a trash incinerator. December 2009 — Residents challenge the planning commission's reversal on a ruling that could have blocked construction. August 2010 — Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority has first permitting hearing for air emissions. November 2010 — A study states the incinerator will cost Frederick County $140.7 million over the next 30 years, significantly less than an initial estimate of $331 million. October 2011 — An environmental group study reports that waste-to-energy incinerators release lead and mercury at a greater rate than some coal-fired plants. November 2011 — More than 100 residents turn out for the county's final public hearing on the waste-to-energy project. June 2012 — After making it known for months that they are pursuing other options, Carroll County officials give Frederick County the green light to pursue new partners for the incinerator. August 2012 — Only about a third of those who sign up to speak have their voices heard at a two-hour Maryland Department of the Environment public hearing on a water permit for the incinerator. September 2012 — With uncertainty about Carroll County's partnership and no firm commitment from a replacement county, Frederick asks Wheelabrator Technologies to calculate the cost of building a plant to burn only Frederick County's trash. January 2013 — Maryland Department of the Environment schedules a single hearing for the final three permits needed before construction of the incinerator can begin.