Burnin’ Down The Waste

Trash Talk
Frederick Gorilla
Kelly Brook
04/27/2012
“No Incinerator!” scream the signs. If you live or work in Frederick County, you’ve seen them in windows, on lawns and in cars for years. You can’t help but notice them. When you see them, maybe you cringe from the vision of soaring incinerator smokestacks spewing a black, smoky, noxious sludge of particulates, carcinogens, and climate-altering acids. Or maybe you roll your eyes imagining the “tree-hugging, peace-loving, Common Market-shopping” conservationist who might have posted it. If you’re like most people, though, you take a moment to acknowledge your concern for the environment, worry for a moment about how this will affect your taxes, wonder what the heck this incinerator debate is all about—and then forget about it and get on with your day.

Mooney moves to stop incinerator near battlefield

Frederick News Post
Meg Tully
02/28/2009
Citing the historic nature of the Monocacy National Battlefield, Sen. Alex Mooney introduced legislation Friday that would prohibit building or operating an incinerator within one mile of a national park. His bill comes in reaction to the Frederick County Commissioners' consideration of a site near the battlefield for an incinerator, also known as a waste-to-energy plant, which would burn trash to generate electricity. It could have a smokestack as tall as 350 feet. The commissioners chose the McKinney Industrial Park as a site to take to public hearing this month. The county-owned site is off Buckeystown Pike. "The battlefield is important, it's an important battle," Mooney said. "I'd hate to see a smokestack put up right next to it, detracting from the attractiveness of the location." Known as the "battle that saved Washington," the one-day conflict at Monocacy delayed Confederate troops as they marched unsuccessfully toward the capital in 1864. Battlefield Superintendent Susan Trail has objected to the site, saying the smokestack would be visually intrusive. The Civil War Preservation Trust named the battlefield one of the most endangered Civil War sites last year because of the incinerator threat. The commissioners have proposed waste-to-energy as a way to combat the county's growing waste disposal needs. They hope to stop the costly practice of hauling trash to a Virginia landfill. Commissioner Kai Hagen, the only opponent of the incinerator on the board, supports Mooney's bill.

Looking ahead to the 2010 commissioners race

Frederick News Post
Meg Tully
11/15/2009
The field could be open in the 2010 Frederick County Commissioners race. Commissioners President Jan Gardner, a Democrat and the top vote-getter in 2006, will not seek another term in that office. "I think three terms is enough," Gardner said. "I think it's time to let some ideas and fresh blood come into it. I haven't decided what I'm going to do next year." Of the five incumbent commissioners, only Commissioner Kai Hagen, a Democrat, has said he will run again, with Republican commissioners David Gray and John L. Thompson Jr. yet to commit. Gray said earlier this year that he will make a decision by April 2010. He could not be reached for an update Friday. Republican Commissioner Charles Jenkins announced in January he is running for the House of Delegates in District 3B, which covers southern Frederick County and part of Washington County. He said last week he still intends on doing so, even though he has yet to file. The potential lack of incumbents in the race makes the field much different than in 2006, when four incumbents ran.

Frederick County commissioners united against annexations

Gazette
Sherry Greenfield
10/09/2009
The Frederick County Commissioners have fought over illegal immigration, haggled over the incinerator and stood divided when it came to government spending. But for what could be the first time in recent history, the five-member board stands united on an issue that has erupted in the county — the City of Frederick's annexation of the Crumland and Thatcher farms, on U.S. Route 15. Regardless of political affiliation and partisan interests, the five stand together in their fight against the annexations.

Commissioners expected to vote on incinerator today

Frederick News Post
Meg Tully
06/23/2009
A trash debate that has dominated county discussions for years could be resolved today. Commissioner Charles Jenkins is expected to make several motions that will allow the county to go ahead with a proposed incinerator, also known as waste-to-energy because it could generate electricity. Commissioners John L. Thompson Jr. and David Gray are expected to be in support. "What should have been done 20 years ago, will hopefully be set in motion tomorrow," Jenkins said by phone Monday.

Political considerations part of incinerator debate

Frederick News Post
Meg Tully
05/04/2009
The 2010 election wasn't far from the minds of the Frederick County Commissioners when they voted last week to hold off on awarding a contract to build a trash incinerator. Commissioners have considered building an incinerator, also called waste-to-energy, for more than two years. Commissioners plan to investigate alternatives instead. That is, in part, because the incinerator appears to be so politically unpopular it could be overturned by a newly elected board. A plant in Sydney, Australia, was shut down after it was up and running because of public opposition, Commissioners President Jan Gardner told the board last week. Additionally, any decision to approve an incinerator could come back to haunt officials in a future campaign.

Commissioners suspend incinerator plans

Frederick News Post
Meg Tully
04/29/2009
The Frederick County Commissioners are suspending deliberations on a proposed trash incinerator, and will focus instead on alternative disposal options. The commissioners accepted bids on the project earlier this year, and appeared to have narrowed those down to a preferred site and contractor to build and run the incinerator. But they voted 4-1 on Tuesday to suspend that process. Commissioner John L. Thompson Jr. voted against the motion. Also known as waste-to-energy, the trash incinerator was intended to be a cheaper, long-term answer to the county's shrinking landfill space. The proposed project would have been built by Wheelabrator and located at McKinney Industrial Park, across the river from Monocacy National Battlefield. It would have cost Frederick and Carroll counties up to $527 million, and one commissioner said Tuesday the cost could even be as high as $615 million. A motion to proceed with that contract and add requirements to make it less visually intrusive was defeated 3-2, with only commissioners Thompson and David Gray in favor.

Framework adopted for sustainability commission

Frederick News Post
Karen Gardner
03/11/2009
The Frederick County Commissioners are moving forward with a plan to make the county cleaner and greener. The commissioners adopted a framework for countywide sustainability. They also approved the creation of a Sustainability Commission, which will act in an advisory role. Both moves represent the commissioners' desire to incorporate environmentally sound approaches into county functions. Hilari Varnadore, director of the county's new Office of Sustainability, said the goal is to link environmental policy with economic and social considerations. "When these are combined and decisions are made that integrate all three, you can achieve a sustainable community," she said in her PowerPoint presentation to the commissioners Tuesday. The sustainability commission ideally will have 13 members representing energy, agriculture, education, small business, health and grass roots. The commissioners supported Varnadore's framework with a consensus vote. Commissioners Jan Gardner, David Gray and Kai Hagen voted to support the commission.

New trash disposal option considered

Frederick News Post
Karen Gardner
03/05/2009
The county's waste-to-energy debate just got a little more complicated. Frederick County Commissioners Jan Gardner and Charles Jenkins announced Wednesday that they will look into another trash disposal option. This one uses a mechanical biological treatment system. The commissioners have considered building a $527 million incinerator that would burn trash and convert some of it into electricity. The idea has passionate supporters and detractors. Gardner and Jenkins plan to go to a March 16 conference in Philadelphia and meet with representatives of ArrowBio, the most well-known builder of mechanical biological treatment systems. None exist in the United States. There is one in Australia and one in Israel. The commissioners have boosted household recycling options this year. Still, that probably won't significantly reduce the 600 to 800 tons of daily residential trash that the county collects. Most of the county's trash is trucked to a landfill in southern Virginia, an option the county will have through 2015. The commissioners are looking for a more permanent option. "On a number of fronts, ArrowBio seems promising," Jenkins said at Wednesday's press conference. A ballpark estimate of the cost is $75 million to $100 million. If the county decides to build an incinerator with Wheelabrator, the company county staff recommends, the plant could cost the county up to $325 million. Carroll County would pay the rest. The two counties would share the plant, but it would be built in Frederick County.

Md. 28 site dropped from incinerator consideration

Frederick News Post
Justin Palk
02/13/2009
There's now only one site up for discussion at next week's public hearings on Frederick County's proposed waste-to-energy plant. Thursday morning, the Board of County Commissioners voted 3-0 to drop a site owned by Allegheny Energy, a mile west of the intersection of Md. 28 and New Design Road, from the list of possible sites. Commissioner Charles Jenkins, who first moved to strike the site from the list, said that while it scored well on paper, it was more important for the county to follow through on its land preservation goals. "It's been my thinking all along that the appropriate site is an industrial site," he said. "Not ... part of our rural legacy land." Waste-to-energy discussions weren't on the agenda -- Jenkins made the motion during the commissioners' comments portion of the meeting.

Hagen attacks incinerator idea

Frederick News Post
Meg Tully
11/19/2008
The only Frederick County commissioner opposed to a trash incinerator asked other board members at a meeting Tuesday to step back and re-evaluate their research. About 100 people attended to watch Commissioner Kai Hagen's PowerPoint on an incinerator and what he sees as the alternatives. His presentation comes as the commissioners are poised to review two final bids for the incinerator. It is also known as waste-to-energy because it will produce electricity. The incinerator is estimated to cost $325 million, though that number will be more exact after the bids are revealed. County staff members are evaluating those bids, and commissioners expect to have them before the board by the end of the year. Hagen criticized the board for basing the preference to build an incinerator on uncertain assumptions, such as population growth, how much trash each household will produce, or what environmental regulations could be put in place in the future. He also said they have underestimated the value of flexibility in dealing with waste, and overestimated the benefit of the certainty that an incinerator would bring to waste disposal. "It is more important to make the right decision than a rush decision," he said. He asked for a professional study of the economic risk waste-to-energy poses should those assumptions be different and asked for alternatives to be reviewed. His preferred alternative would include a combination of recycling, composting and diversion, along with using landfill space that would have to be used for ash with an incinerator, and hauling the rest of the trash to out-of-state landfills. He said with a 70 percent recycling rate by 2020, and 80 percent by 2030, the county would spend less long-term than with an incinerator.

County may license trash haulers

Frederick News Post
Meg Tully
10/29/2008
The Frederick County Commissioners may replace a controversial trash franchising plan with a new proposal to license trash haulers. As the commissioners culled their list of 2009 state legislative priorities Tuesday morning, they opted not to vote about moving forward on franchising. They will discuss licensing as an alternative at a meeting scheduled for Nov. 6. County officials had touted the franchising bill as a tool to increase recycling because it would allow them to make curbside pickup mandatory in trash collection contracts. Only 54,000 households now get curbside recycling. That service is provided by the county. The franchising bill failed last April in the Maryland General Assembly, when trash haulers objected and Frederick County Sen. Alex Mooney, a Republican, refused to support it. The bill would have given the county the authority to arrange area trash hauling contracts instead of letting residents individually choose haulers. Licensing haulers could have the same effect, by requiring curbside pickup as a condition of getting a license from the county. Commissioner Kai Hagen announced Tuesday that he will oppose franchising, sparking interest in the licensing alternative. He decided to oppose the franchising legislation, he said, because he believes the county could increase its recycling programs with the powers it has now.

E-mail exchange on trash intensifies

Frederick County commissioners, residents exchange dozens of e-mails daily regarding incinerator
Gazette
Sherry Greenfield
07/31/2008
Frederick County commissioners and residents opposed to building an incinerator in the county continue to hash out the issue via multiple e-mail exchanges. The daily exchange intensified this week following a July 24 Gazette story that said a recent presentation praising recycling programs in Boulder, Colo., did little to convince commissioners John ‘‘Lennie” Thompson Jr. (R) and Charles A. Jenkins (R), that building an incinerator, or waste-to-energy facility, is wrong for the county. For the first time, Thompson found himself drawn into the back-and-forth e-mail exchanges, when his comments were questioned by incinerator opponents.

Officials still lean toward incinerator

Thompson, Jenkins say recent presentations on alternatives for waste don’t sway their positions
Gazette
Sherry Greenfield
07/24/2008
Despite a power-point presentation, a 45-minute film and testimony praising the recycling programs in Boulder, Colo., two Frederick County commissioners said this week they are still not convinced that building an incinerator to dispose of trash is wrong for Frederick County. Commissioners Charles A. Jenkins (R) and John ‘‘Lennie” Thompson Jr. (R) said this week they are still leaning toward voting to build an incinerator in Frederick County, or what some call a ‘‘waste-to-energy” facility, because it burns trash to produce electricity.

Senior developments face restrictions or impact studies

Frederick News Post
Karen Gardner
06/20/2008
Housing for older people in Frederick County may either face a school capacity study or be restricted entirely to those 62 and older, according to proposed ordinances before the Frederick County Commissioners. The commissioners will have a public hearing on the two ordinances, which are mutually exclusive, next week. The ordinances are aimed at reducing the possibility that older-adult communities could add to the school population. There may be legal roadblocks to passing the ordinance requiring all residents of age-restricted developments be 62 and older. "There is very little case law," Kathy Mitchell, assistant county attorney, said at a public workshop session Thursday. She told the commissioners that such an ordinance could bring about legal challenges. Most age-restricted housing developments in the U.S., including those already in existence in Frederick County, require that 80 percent of households have at least one resident 55 or older. Courts have determined that these developments for older residents are not discriminatory. Those types of developments may still attract residents who have school-age children. The proposed ordinance would apply to all residents in a 62-and-older community, not just one person per household.

County rejects bypass proposals for New Market

Gazette
Chris Brown
01/31/2008
The Frederick Board of County Commissioners on Monday removed from plans several proposed roads that would bypass the Town of New Market, citing the lack of money. Commissioner John ''Lennie" Thompson Jr. (R) was the most stringent critic of the proposed roads, saying that without money, the roads were nothing more than ''words or lines on a map," and were not enough to build a bypass. The plan for a northern bypass from Boyers Mill Road and Summerfield was removed by a 3-2 vote. Thompson said that this would not prevent the construction of a bypass at some point, but there would need to be money first. "There's no money, there's not going to be a bypass," Thompson said.

Future of commuting nightmarish

Gazette
Sherry Greenfield
05/17/2007
The future of commuting in Frederick County looks bleak. People will drive farther to jobs on inadequate roads, and there is little anyone can do about it. That is the outlook some planners with the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments presented at a forum Monday organized by the Frederick Area Committee on Transportation. The committee invited the Washington Council of Governments to meet with Frederick county and city elected officials, developers and land-use attorneys to talk about ways to ease traffic. "We have some ideas, and we're also asking people to give us their own ideas," said John Swanson, a senior transportation planner with the Council of Governments. "... People always ask us 'is traffic getting worse?' And the answer is yes. We don't want to fool people that we have all the answers."

GOP hopefuls debate in forum

Frederick News Post
Clifford Cumber
09/02/2006
In the closest thing to a real debate in this campaign season, Republican candidates took the stage Thursday in front of a GOP audience.Republicans are crowding the field leading up to the Sept. 12 primary; the forum, held by the Republican Women of greater Frederick, was a rare chance for GOP candidates to reach out to their base. The format allowed candidates to respond to points made by others, or expound on questions. Candidates for Frederick County State's Attorney had their moment, as did four GOP candidates for sheriff. One of the most contested GOP primaries is between 14 Republicans to be one of five who will go to the general election to compete for seats on the Frederick County Board of County Commissioners. Commissioner Mike Cady and former Commissioners President David Gray disagreed over the number of houses allowed by the present board of county commissioners through rezoning. Mr. Cady has been upbeat in his campaign, touting the achievements of his four years in office to counter what he said are the efforts of some candidates to frighten voters. "Don't be scared into voting for a no-growth, anti-business slate," he warned. Reiterating a point he's made several times, Mr. Cady said an average of 1,825 new homes a year had been built during his term, 20 percent less than the previous board, presided over by Mr. Gray. That fact defied the "pro-growth" label commonly attached to three of the sitting commissioners, Mr. Cady said.

County races mostly funded by developers

Frederick News Post
Sean Barry
10/30/2002
Companies involved in land development, along with their owners and employees, have poured more money into the Frederick County Commissioners election contest than all other contributors combined, according to a review of the final pre-election campaign finance reports. The real estate and building industries, generally unhappy with the two incumbents who are running for re-election, have supplied about $40,000 for a group endorsing several challengers and largely bankrolled some individual campaigns as well, the reports show.