Carroll County Commissioner Rothschild tells it like it is regarding the incinerator finances
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News-Post EDITORIAL, August 21, 2013
A small group of county residents has filed a new lawsuit to block the county’s sale of Montevue Assisting Living and Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center to a private, for-profit company.
Those who filed the complaint in Frederick County Circuit Court last Friday all have a personal or emotional connection with the institutions. They include two current residents of Montevue; two member of the institutions’ former board of trustees, which the Frederick County Commissioners dissolved earlier this year; donors to the two institutions; a relative of a Montevue resident; a neighbor who lives next to the facilities; and a descendent of Elias Bruner, who sold the Montevue property to the county in 1828, the deed of which stipulated that the property was to be used only to benefit the poor.
The suit consists of five counts, among them that the county lacked the legal authority to privatize the institutions, that doing so would deprive the community’s of its safety net for the poor, and that the two facilities had not been given a reasonable opportunity to becomefinancially self-sufficient.
Every indication we have it that county residents, on balance, believe these institutions are a credit to the community and a worthwhile use of the small percentage of taxpayer money that they require. We support that position.
When asked by News-Post reporter Bethany Rodgers about the suit’s complaints, county attorney John Mathias refuted their validity, one by one. We’ll all have to wait and see what the court thinks of these complaints.
Beyond that, however, we would like to see this sale put on hold until Frederick County’s new charter government is installed in December of next year. This decision can certainly wait that long.
We believe that a decision on the proposed waste-to-energy incinerator should also be postponed until then. Both Citizens/Montevue and the controversial WTE project have attracted many dedicated opponents. This opposition seems to have grown larger and more vocal over time. At this point, pushing through either one of these proposals appears counter to public will.
As with other important issues, each candidate for the new government will be questioned about his or her stance on these highinterest issues. On election day, voters will know what each candidate’s position is, and can then vote accordingly.
Why not put these decisions in the hands of Frederick County voters? Let them decide whether they want their county to retain the historic service for the poor that Citizens/Montevue provides, and whether they want to embrace WTE as the county’s principal method of solid waste disposal.
Neither of these issues is so urgent that it cannot wait until next year for a resolution. In the meantime, Citizens/Montevue can continue striving for its goal of financial self-sufficiency, the wisdom of choosing WTE can be further evaluated, and additional options to incineration can be explored.
Rats Invade Quiet Neighborhood Surrounding Covanta
Niagara Falls Reporter | AUG 06, 2013
By Frank Parlato
There is a problem with rats. Near the Covanta Energy Plant.
And neighbors are complaining.
What would you do if it happened to you?
We drove to the neighborhood and stopped on Stephenson Avenue near 56th Street .
Right near Covanta. This is a quiet, modest neighborhood. But to live in it now, now that rats have taken over, is disquieting. The black rat, the brown rat. The Norway rat.
Since 1980, Covanta Niagara, L.P., a subsidiary of Covanta Energy Corp. of New Jersey, at 100 Energy Blvd. and 56th Street in Niagara Falls, has been converting municipal waste into renewable energy, which, it is said, benefits the power needs of local businesses like Occidental, Goodyear, Norampac, Niacet and Praxair.
Their incinerator burns 800,000 tons of garbage each year. It comes from various places as rotting, festering, stinking garbage and they burn it.
And sky borne, the smoke fills the air.
They burn garbage from as far as Toronto . And turn it into steam.
Every day 300 trucks come loaded with garbage and rats come along for the ride.
We walked by a few houses and down the alley between 57th and 56th Streets.
There were dead rats.
Some were so far decaying they looked brown and rotting, lumps of carcass, hair and bones sticking through like little chopsticks. Surrounded by flies and maggots.
They were eager to talk this Thursday, early Summer evening.
Neighbors came out when they saw us.
All, it seems, are aware of the problem.
One of the neighbors, Rhonda Grose has lived on Stephenson for 14 years,
“They ruined my pond, dug trenches in my gardens, under my porch and my shed. I watched them from the dining room lifting lids on metal garbage cans in my driveway to get at the garbage. Rats,” she said.
“My house smells like a dead rat,” said a man who was with her. “They are all over the place.”
“I’ve seen them in my backyard literally like a parade,” said Maureen, a resident of 20 years.
“My kids used to put up a tent in the backyard. No way now,” said Darlene, a resident of 57th Street .
Was anyone bitten?
No. Not yet.
It’s only a matter of time.
As we walked with neighbors, we saw more dead rats.
Some were killed in traps. Other poisoned. Others shot by pellet guns.
Neighbors have taken into their own hands.
Pity the poor rats. In a warm nest of garbage, on a garbage truck. Maybe it was Toronto or Amherst . The truck moves. The rats are riding, plump in their garbage, from Amherst to Niagara .
Now it comes to Covanta. Dumped. Soon to be burned. The rats flee.
Avoiding a midnight burn.
Out into the streets. Down Stephenson, running, seeking a place to hide. Up the alleyway.
We stopped and stood in the alley now, a dozen people with us now.
“I lived in my home for 15 years and, until two years ago, I never had anything but an occasional field mouse,” a woman said. “Last night I found a feral cat hiding in the tree behind my property. I think it’s because it’s safer there than being on the ground. Rats roam at night. When I sit on my back porch I tap my feet the whole time to keep the rats from coming and running across my feet.”
Who do you think it is?
“Covanta,” they all said at once.
Lady: “I got a friend that worked over there. They personally called him in to do work, because the rats were up in the ceilings, and he had to remodel the ceilings of the Covanta building.”
Man: “You see trucks drive long distance with garbage. I was talking to the drivers, and they said they find rats in them a lot. My cousin is a heavy equipment operator and union hall would send them up here. And he had the job of pushing the garbage out of the truck to the dump here, in a pile, where they get ready to burn it. And in the winter time especially it was worse, because rats are looking for warmth. Garbage trucks are warm inside when they sit overnight. and there’ll be at least five rats in almost every truck. Now imagine how many trucks are coming in and dumping here every day. And they don’t come from just here. They come from Tonawanda , Amherst , Kenmore , Canada . So you know there are rats in that stuff. Now it’s summer. They are running all over the place. They are chewing holes in the walls. I went to the basement to do laundry and I see the hole. I set a trap and caught it. I had to put new siding, mortared the sill, put in a new sill, new wood, put the siding back up to keep them out. I found a rat as big as my shoe. About a foot. Tail to head.”
Another man: “I’ve seen them jump off garbage trucks…”
Last Friday, Grose petitioned their neighbors from 57th Street and Stephenson Avenue to 63rd Street , collecting 248 signatures. The petition read: “We would like to stop Covanta from bringing in more garbage and rats. We would like Covanta and the New York state DOT to end the current rat infestation in our neighborhoods and help us control the rat population in the future.”
On Monday they brought that to City Hall.
Carroll preparing to pay $3 million penalty
fee to avoid building incinerator
By Christian Alexandersen | Carroll County Times Staff Writer | Posted: Thursday, June 27, 2013 2:34 pm
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.
Thursday morning’s decision by the board came on the heels of an argument between Commissioners Richard Rothschild, R-District 4, and Howard, R-District 5.
Howard wanted to set aside $3 million and have it used if Frederick County does not find a replacement partner by Sept. 30, 2014, which is about a week before the board’s term ends. The board, Howard said, had spent enough time waiting and it was appropriate for them to set a firm deadline.
“[What I am not comfortable with] is that somehow, a future board picks up a project that is absolutely where it was the day we walked into office and can simply, in a matter of moments, incur a $200-plus million obligation for the citizens of Carroll County,” Howard said. “We were elected to deal with this issue and I believe it needs to be dealt with today.”
Rothschild argued that setting a deadline would ensure that Frederick County would not seriously look for partners until after it received $3 million from Carroll. By waiting and not setting a deadline, Frederick County may find a partner to take Carroll’s place, he said.
“Stating a date for termination will be counterproductive, it will simply encourage them to delay,” Rothschild said. “Setting the deadline right now will guarantee that no one will take our position before that deadline.”
In April 2008, the former three-member Carroll County Board of Commissioners voted in favor of forming a partnership with Frederick County to seek out a proposal for a 1,500-ton-per-day incinerator to be shared by the two counties. The Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority in December 2008 chose a proposal by Wheelabrator Technologies Inc. to build a waste-to-energy incinerator.
In 2009, Carroll’s former three-member board chose to go forward with the incinerator project and signed a memorandum of understanding with Frederick County. Comptroller Rob Burk said on Thursday that the $3 million penalty fee will go to the Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority to fulfill financial obligations to Wheelabrator.
FREDERICK COUNTY IGNORES MAJOR FLAWS IN FINANCIAL PLAN FOR INCINERATOR
There are a number of major problems with the Waste-to-Energy, or incinerator, plan developed by the Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority (the Authority) and still supported by the Frederick County Board of County Commissioners. The plan does not make good sense or good policy because it will increase the cost of trash disposal and will deplete Frederick County’s Reich’s Ford landfill faster. And Frederick County taxpayers will see their system benefit charges increase, perhaps significantly, to cover the increased cost.
In a letter dated June 28, 2012, Carroll County Board of Commissioners signaled their intent to withdraw from the partnership with Frederick County. Therefore, absent a replacement County, the entire financial burden will fall to Frederick County taxpayers.
The Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority, which wrote all the contracts governing this project, is a self-supporting public corporation of the State of Maryland and does not receive appropriations. By design, the Authority must fund their operations by charging fees for their services. Under the current plan and contract, if the regional Waste-to-Energy incinerator is built in Frederick County, the Authority will receive approximately $20 million in fees over the expected 30 year life of the service contract. In addition, the Authority charges counties an annual membership fee. Last year Frederick County’s fee was $125,000.00, and that is scheduled to increase by $50,000 per year for the next several years.
If the incinerator is constructed, the Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority will own it.
Construction of the facility will be financed by revenue bonds issued by the Authority. Then Frederick County will be contractually required to pay off the debt over thirty years.
The mass burn incinerator will have a capacity of 1,500 tons per day or 547,500 tons per year. The guaranteed throughput is 503,700 tons per year. Under the current two-county agreement, Frederick County would be responsible for 60% of that capacity, or more than 300,000 tons per year. Currently, however, Frederick County generates only about 165,000 tons of trash per year, with 15,000 tons buried in Reichs Ford Landfill and 150,000 tons hauled to an out-of-county landfill.
The Authority is working under contracts on behalf of Frederick and Carroll County and is the contracting officer for the incinerator project. And when the facility begins operation, the Authority intends to import about 350,000 tons of trash per year into Frederick County for burning at this facility. The source of this trash has not yet been determined.
Wheelabrator Technologies, Inc. was the successful bidder on the contract to build the facility, and to operate it for at least the first 20 years, with two 5-year options under the existing Service Contract with the Authority.
Wheelabrator will bill the Authority for its expenses. The Authority pays Wheelabrator and bills the counties.
System Benefit Charges, which are included as part of all county property tax bills, are a significant source of the revenue for the facility.
The Authority’s financial plan consists of several pages of spreadsheets showing estimated revenue and cost projections. The financial plan is identified as Conservative Electric Full Plant. Most of the cost is fixed by contract. Revenue can vary substantially based on the market prices for electricity and recovered metals.
There are several other contracts between the Authority and the counties, including the Energy Recovery Agreements; the Memorandum of Understanding; and the Project Site Lease Agreement (with Frederick County only).
The most significant issues regarding this project are financing, the disposal of incinerator ash, projected savings, and premature plant obsolescence.
NEA plans to issue $462 million worth of bonds to finance construction. NEA estimated debt service at $28 million per year over 30 years for a total of $840 million in principal and interest.
Frederick County claims it is not their debt. Technically, the debt belongs to the Authority because they issued the bonds. However, the County is required by Section 4.1 of the Energy Recovery Agreement to make debt service payments to the Authority for 30 years. Therefore, in effect, the debt does belong to the County.
Frederick County officials assert that outside jurisdictions bringing trash to the incinerator will backhaul their own ash. Their assertion is contradicted by existing contracts. The contracts signed by a previous Board of County Commissioners commit the county to disposing of ash, including ash from imported trash, in the Reichs Ford Landfill at County expense.
As of June 2013, the Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority and Wheelabrator Technologies, Inc have not yet obtained the required permits. And yet, according to Frederick County, the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) has already required additional air quality control equipment, above and beyond Wheelabrator’s original proposal, that will add $25 million to the cost of the facility. History strongly suggests that more stringent regulatory requirements in the future will necessitate additional expenditures for pollution control equipment over the life of the contract. Some of these could be very substantial.
A significant part of the justification for building an incinerator is the Authority’s projected cost savings over the current practice of hauling trash out of county, over the next thirty years. The Authority has claimed that Carroll County would save $229 million by using the incinerator. That assertion is false. A better – and more honest – estimate reveals that it will likely cost Carroll County at least $100 million more to use the incinerator. The projected savings are false because the Authority has inflated the projected revenues from the sale of electricity for the incinerator, while also overstated the cost of continuing to haul waste out of the county.
In 2012, Frederick County paid less that $8 million to long haul its trash out of state. For some additional perspective, in Fiscal Year 2012 alone, Montgomery County paid the Authority $41.4 million to cover the cost of operating the incinerator in Dickerson. Frederick County can expect to see similarly high payments to the Authority if the incinerator is built.
Time to junk trash-to-energy programs like one in Newport?
St. Paul (MN) Pioneer Press
Saturday, June 22, 2013
By Bob Shaw
A program based in Newport burns garbage to generate electricity.
But it is also burning something else — money.
If it burned 30,000 dollar bills every day for 19 years, that would almost equal the $219 million in public subsidies it has received through 2013.
As generators of electricity, waste-to-energy plants nationwide cost five times as much as solar generation, and 50 times more than natural gas.
As a way to keep garbage out of landfills, the plants are outshone by programs that do the same thing at no cost to taxpayers.
Wheelabrator agrees to pay $7.5 million to resolve multiple
From Staff reports
May 02, 2011
Saugus —The following joint press release comes from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and the Office of the Attorney General
The operator of three Massachusetts municipal waste incinerators has agreed to pay $7.5 million to resolve allegations that it emitted ash through holes in the roofs of two of its buildings, failed to properly treat and dispose of its ash, repeatedly dumped wastewater into a surrounding wetland, and failed to report a sudden release of hazardous material to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP).
Wheelabrator Saugus and Wheelabrator North Andover allegedly committed multiple violations of the Hazardous Waste Management Act by failing to properly treat and dispose of ash, and the Clean Water Act by failing to contain fugitive ash. Wheelabrator Millbury and Wheelabrator Saugus allegedly committed violations of the Clean Water Act and the Wetlands Protection Act by releasing ash contaminated water and ash sludge into waterways or wetlands.
“Corporate responsibility is paramount if we want to preserve our communities and maintain the beauty and safety of our Commonwealth,” said Attorney General Martha Coakley. “We are grateful to those who initially raised concerns with us about Wheelabrator, and are pleased that Wheelabrator has taken the steps needed to set its three facilities on a safe path for the future. Working together with MassDEP, we have reached a settlement that will ensure continuing environmental oversight of these facilities as well as a return of dollars to both state and local budgets and help for the affected communities.”
The Massachusetts Environmental Strike Force launched an investigation into violations by Wheelabrator in September 2009 after two individuals, one current and one former employee of Wheelabrator Saugus, approached the Attorney General’s Office over concerns about environmental violations at the Saugus facility. A third individual, an employee of Wheelabrator North Andover, brought additional information about violations at the North Andover facility to the attention of the AG’s Office in July 2010.
“Municipal waste collection is an important public service, but waste incineration triggers many important environmental regulations, and strict compliance with those regulations is required in order to ensure that the public health is protected,” said MassDEP Commissioner Kenneth Kimmell. “Wheelabrator fell far short of meeting some of the most basic requirements and the settlement today, which is the highest ever for a state case arising out of environmental violations, reflects the seriousness with which MassDEP takes this requirement. Protecting public health and the environment must be priority one for Wheelabrator from this day forward.”
Conservatives Speak Out Against WTE Incinerator – Hough, Mooney Disagree with Local Party Mates
Delegate Michael Hough and former state Sen. Alex Mooney consider themselves conservative Republicans, but neither sides with the all-Republican Board of County Commissioners on the proposed waste-to-energy incinerator project in Frederick County.
Both continue to publicly oppose the plan, with Hough writing to the Maryland Department of the Environment last week and Mooney using his radio show this weekend to highlight the problems with burning trash.
- The proposed trash incinerator plans are based on financial, technological, and environmental assumptions that are inaccurate, out of date, misleading, or false.
To deal with its trash (also called solid waste), Frederick County currently operates its own waste transfer station and landfill.