Rail to trail becoming a reality in Mount Airy

Frederick News Post
Nancy Hernandez
11/03/2013
After two decades of wishful thinking, effort has begun in earnest to create a nature path in the heart of town. The trail will run alongside an abandoned rail line that folklore says played a role in the naming of Mount Airy. As the story goes, railroad workers were chiseling and blasting their way through Parr’s Ridge in the winter of 1839. Their goal was to create a safer and easier route for locomotives to traverse the steep incline. At the time, horses helped pull trains over the ridge using a series of plateaus near where Interstate 70 runs today. The journey was slow and dangerous. So B&O railroad officials decided to create a loop that would pass through a lower elevation. The route crossed directly over Main Street in what is now downtown, between Center Street and Prospect Road. One day, an Irish brakeman complained that due to the constant biting wind blowing on the ridge, the place should be named Mount Airy. The name stuck. The railroad line didn’t. Although passenger service ran until the 1950s, the route was largely abandoned around the 1970s. Today, a hardy group of volunteers are laboring with town officials to reclaim the line and convert it into a nature trail. For now, work is focused on a 1⁄3 mile stretch that connects Watkins Park with Main Street. The hope is to eventually continue the trail so that it runs from Village Oaks Drive to the wastewater treatment plant near the Nottingham and Twin Arch Crossing developments — an estimated distance of 2 1⁄2 miles.

State warns 1 cent storm water fee is "insufficient"

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
11/03/2013
Frederick County's 1 cent storm water fee could end up costing tens of thousands of dollars in fines, state environmental officials recently warned. A Maryland Department of the Environment review determined the county's fee would be "insufficient" to pay for the water cleanup efforts required by a state-enforced permit. The fee of 1 cent per eligible property is estimated to raise $487 annually for county water programs. "We believe that this level of funding will be insufficient to support the people, programs and projects that will be necessary for the county to meet its obligations under the Watershed Implementation Plan and the new MS4 permit that we expect to issue to your county next month," stated an Oct. 25 letter written by Robert Summers, the state's environmental secretary. The county could get slapped with fines of up to $32,500 per day for each violation of its storm water permit, which is in the process of being renewed, the letter continued.

Speaking out against Myersville compressor station plans

Frederick News Post
Ann Nau
11/03/2013
Energy giants like Dominion Resources, a Virginia-based multi-billion dollar corporation, benefit when communities like ours don’t connect the dots between their plans and our health. In the case of Dominion’s $3.8 billion plan to liquefy and export natural gas from its Cove Point facility on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay, you can bet they hope Frederick County residents don’t, because we could pay a particularly high price. As The News-Post has reported, a recent MIT study found that Maryland has a higher death rate due to air pollution than any other state, resulting in the premature deaths of 113 out of 100,000 people per year. In Baltimore, that number jumps to 130 per 100,000, and Frederick has similarly high rates. While I applaud the state’s efforts to improve Maryland’s air quality, as noted in the recent letter from Maryland Department of the Environment Secretary Robert Summers, I am gravely concerned about the consequences if state and federal regulators allow Dominion to move forward with its toxic emissions-spewing export facility. The Cove Point terminal in Lusby, currently designed as a gas import facility, is already in an area that exceeds federal limits for ozone pollution, which triggers asthma attacks and worsens respiratory illnesses. The facilities that Dominion wants to add at Cove Point to liquefy gas for export would spew more ozone pollutants, belching 279.5 tons per year of nitrogen oxide and 33.2 tons per year of volatile organic compounds. But how does this connect to Frederick County? As Dominion and other companies race to export natural gas to overseas markets, driving up domestic prices, they’ll need a massive new network of infrastructure — pipelines and compressor stations — to transport gas from fracking operations to Cove Point. In fact, Dominion Transmission Inc. (DTI), a subsidiary of Dominion Resources, has proposed building a 16,000-horsepower compressor station in Frederick — within the town limits of Myersville, where I live, and less than 1 mile from our elementary school.

Court: Federal laws supersede local zoning ordinances for proposed gas compressor station in Myersville

Frederick News Post
Ike Wilson
10/09/2013
When the Myersville Town Council denied a request last year to build a 16,000-horsepower gas compressor station in the western Frederick County municipality, arguing that local ordinances preclude the project, Dominion Transmission Inc. disagreed and sued Myersville.The U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland ruled Monday that local zoning laws are pre-empted by the federal Natural Gas Act. According to the court ruling, those portions of the town code that prevent the siting, construction or operation of the Myersville compressor station are null and void. Dominion also sought an injunction against Myersville, alleging the town was delaying the process to build the station, but the court denied Dominion’s request, saying that the company has not completed other required processes for the Maryland Department of the Environment’s air quality permit. The gas compressor station, which compresses natural gas and pushes it forward, is part of a larger project being built to deal with customer demand for natural gas, according to DTI. The fight to keep the gas compressor station out of Myersville is not over.

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.

Incinerator will add to air pollution

Frederick News Post
Ellis Burruss
10/1/2013
The letter in Sunday’s Frederick News-Post from Maryland Secretary of the Environment Robert Summers clearly describes the difficulty of cleaning the air we breathe while it’s being polluted from neighboring states. As the Sept. 18 editorial pointed out: Air pollution in Frederick County is at a dangerous level and can affect the health of all county residents. However, while Mr. Summers’ concern for stopping pollution from other states is very important, it should be noted that his agency is currently reviewing permit applications for a trash incinerator that will add a significant amount of pollution to our already burdened local atmosphere. The incinerator, which is planned to be built right off English Muffin Way in south Frederick, will burn 1,500 tons a day of mixed trash, old tires and sewage sludge. Despite “state of the art” pollution controls, incinerators are major sources of highly toxic pollutants and carcinogens, chemicals that form ozone (smog), and fine particles that are so small that they can reach the deepest parts of the lung and cross directly into the bloodstream. Because our local air is already so polluted, the hundreds of tons of nitrogen oxides emitted from the incinerator will require us (the taxpayers) to purchase pollution offsets from other communities. We will still breathe the pollution and we’ll have to pay for the privilege!

Foes of Myersville compressor station ask for review, Want state to postpone permit

Frederick News Post
Ike Wilson
09/25/2013
A local grass-roots group wants the Maryland Department of the Environment to consider a recent study that tags the Old Line State with the highest percentage of premature deaths due to long-term exposure to air pollution than any other state before the state agency makes a decision on Dominion Transmission Inc.’s request for an air quality permit for its proposed gas compressor station in Myersville. The recently released study by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that emissions from cars, trucks, industrial smokestacks, trains, boats, and commercial heating systems contribute to the deaths of 113 people per 100,000 population per year in Maryland, according to Myersville Citizens for a Rural Community, the grass-roots group formed to keep the project out of the western Frederick County municipality. Baltimore has the highest emissions-related mortality rate of large cities in the country, and Frederick, Reisterstown and Montgomery Village all have rates close to Baltimore’s, according to the study. After a recent MDE informational meeting in Myersville, MCRC members said the agency should consider the MIT study, along with numerous scientific studies and facts that support not granting the air quality permit to operate a 16,000 horsepower gas compressor station in Myersville.

Citizens Protest Proposed Incinerator

WFMD
Kevin McManus
09/21/213
Chanting "Hey, hey; ho, ho; incinerator has got to go," and unfurling a banner which read "Draw The Line; No Incinerator; Fight CLimate Change," a group of citizens gathered at the McKinney Industrial Park Saturday morning to protest the proposed waste to energy facility for Frederick County. The demonstration was local, but it was driven by national organizations such as 350.org, and the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, which are concerned about the impact incineration has on climate change. "It's the most environmentally irresponsible approach we could take," says former county commissioner Kai Hagen, who was at the rally. "There are public health concerns and it's an incredibly risky financial endeavor that was never really justified. The economic model used to justify it was indefensible then, and it's even more indefensible now." Hagen was on the Board of County Commissioners when approval was given to go ahead with the project. He voted in opposition.

Air of dissatisfaction

Frederick News Post
09/8/2013
A recent Capital News Service story on air pollution raised a number of questions. Those who read deeply enough into the story also found an eye-opening bit of information about Frederick. According to a Massachusetts Institute of Technology study released last month, a higher percentage of Marylanders die prematurely due to long-term exposure to air pollution than residents of any other state. What is particularly galling about this situation is that, to some extent, the costly efforts Maryland has made to clean up its air are being sabotaged by some “upwind” states that haven’t made similar sacrifices. The MIT study listed Baltimore as the worst large city in the entire nation when it comes to emissions-related mortality rate. For those of us who are used to hearing all the horror stories about Los Angeles, Denver and other pollution-choked cities, this is somewhat of a shock. A bit further into the story, the news got even worse. Frederick pops up as one of several Maryland cities whose air-pollution-related death rate is nearly as high as Baltimore’s.

Frederick leaders consider city’s role in incinerator project

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
08/13/2013
Questions about the county’s waste-to-energy project are starting to smolder among officials in the city of Frederick. Though most decisions about the incinerator project have happened at the county level, at least two aldermen believe city leaders have a role to play. In an email sent to fellow board members last week, Alderwoman Karen Young recommended calling an optional evening meeting to hear from both sides of the debate over the incinerator. “I do believe that this is a City issue because City participation will be needed to make this project viable. In addition, if it is a major concern to our residents, then it becomes a City issue,” she wrote. Her email came in response to a message from an incinerator opponent who had detailed his concerns about the project and urged the aldermen to look into it more deeply.

Frederick leaders consider city's role in incinerator project

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
08/13/2013
Questions about the county’s waste-to-energy project are starting to smolder among officials in the city of Frederick. Though most decisions about the incinerator project have happened at the county level, at least two aldermen believe city leaders have a role to play. In an email sent to fellow board members last week, Alderwoman Karen Young recommended calling an optional evening meeting to hear from both sides of the debate over the incinerator. “I do believe that this is a City issue because City participation will be needed to make this project viable. In addition, if it is a major concern to our residents, then it becomes a City issue,” she wrote. Her email came in response to a message from an incinerator opponent who had detailed his concerns about the project and urged the aldermen to look into it more deeply.

Recycling: What happens to all those plastics and cans?

Frederick News Post
Margie Hyslop
08/11/2013
Ever wonder how the jumble of recyclables tossed in your one-bin-takes-all cart gets sorted so it all can be shipped off to become new products? The answer is inside a building in Howard County which receives much of the recyclable material collected in Frederick County. Winding through the 50,000 square-foot Recycle America plant off U.S. Route 1 in Elkridge is an ingenious array of conveyor belts interspersed with a series of staged mechanical and magnetic filters. The apparatus fills most of the structure and separates most stuff stashed in the carts that Frederick residents have been wheeling to the curb since the county expanded its recycling program to a single stream system in 2009. At the plant — one of several in Maryland owned by Waste Management, the world’s largest collector and marketer of recyclables — workers first weigh each load and record where it came from. Then all the material goes onto a conveyor belt where workers watch for large items and plastic bags and remove those by hand. Tons of paper, cardboard, metals, glass, plastic run down the belt to rows of rotating disks gauged to sort materials by pushing some items over the top and allowing others to fall through and move for further sorting. Large pieces of cardboard are snagged early and sent to storage for baling.

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.

Disappointed in Myersville

ClimateHoward
Elisabeth Hoffman
05/16/2013
Federal regulators have denied Myersville residents a rehearing on the permit for a planned compressor station in their rural community. Myersville Citizens for a Rural Community (MCRC) had asked for a rehearing on Dominion Transmission Inc.’s planned 16,000-horsepower compressor station for fracked natural gas, saying in part that the environmental review was insufficient and the process was inadequate and unfair. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), however, agreed with itself. On every issue. In its 35-page ruling issued today, it disagreed with each of MCRC’s points, from concerns about the need for the compressor station and the size of the facility to the noise, danger, air pollutants, environmental assessment and effect on property values. In a ruling summary issued this morning, FERC said, “The order makes clear that the local laws and regulations upon which the Town bases its denial are preempted by the Natural Gas Act.”

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.

Food-scrap composting finds a home in Howard

County launches own facility to process residential waste
Baltimore Sun
Timothy B. Wheeler
04/21/2013
Howard Hord considers himself a chef of sorts, but the food he works with is a little past its prime. Using moldy melon rinds, orange peels and other castoff fruit and vegetables from some Howard County kitchens, Hord is "cooking" the first batches of plant fertilizer to be produced by the new composting facility at the county's Alpha Ridge landfill in Marriottsville, set to mark its official opening on Monday, Earth Day.

MDE should deny WTE permits

Frederick News Post
Ellis Burruss
04/16/2013
If the MDE grants the permits to build the proposed “waste-to-energy” trash incinerator in Frederick County it will result in the exposure of Frederick County citizens to a number of “hazardous air pollutants.” The permit application appendix table B-2 section B lists 111 tons of organic compounds, inorganic compounds, and metals that will be released into the atmosphere during each year of operation. This exposure risk raises questions: Will the MDE guarantee that no Frederick County resident will be adversely affected by the release of these hazardous air pollutants from the incinerator?

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.

Global Mission Church survives appeal; more legal challenges predicted

Frederick News Post
Patti S. Borda
03/01/2013
The Sugarloaf Citizens Association Inc. and others tried unsuccessfully Thursday to block Global Mission Church's site plan for an 800-seat house of worship. The Frederick County Board of Appeals voted 4-1 to deny hearing the appeal filed by attorney Michele Rosenfeld on behalf of clients near the church site. She intended to make a case that the wrong zoning ordinance and faulty health department calculations were considered in November when the Frederick County Planning Commission approved the site plan for 78 acres at 25700 Old Hundred Road. After nearly two hours of discussion, a majority of the board of appeals concluded that it would not hear the appeal because it has no jurisdiction over septic decisions, which fall under state health department authority, and that Rosenfeld cited zoning law that did not apply to the case.