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Maryland, Maryland, Quite Contrary-land

Since 2011, Maryland has been notorious for being the only state to classify trash as equivalent to wind power in a renewable energy mandate. Over half of the "renewable" energy used to meet the mandate still comes from smokestacks at paper mills, landfills, trash, and biomass incinerators in 12 states spanning New Jersey to Wisconsin to Tennessee.

For the past few years, we've been warning that expanding a dirty renewable energy mandate without first cleaning it up would mean trouble. In recent years, Maryland has faced plans for two large new incinerators, which were closer to reality than any in the nation. These fully permitted incinerator proposals both fell to defeat after five and eight year grassroots efforts. Destiny Watford, a Baltimore resident who got involved while attending the high school within a mile of the proposed Energy Answers incinerator, just received the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize for her leadership in that battle.

Despite these high profile incinerator battles, the Maryland Climate Coalition (a coalition of mainstream environmental groups, led largely by Chesapeake Climate Action Network) chose to keep pushing to expand the state's Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) while declining to support the parallel effort to first remove smokestack technologies from the mandate. The bill we drafted to clean up Maryland's RPS was introduced with strong support from the Maryland Chapter of Sierra Club, and many of us testified at hearings on the bill, which was aggressively opposed by the incinerator and paper mill industries.

While our legislation was handily shot down, we did a lot to educate legislators and build momentum for next year. As the RPS expansion bill passed, an amendment to strip trash incineration out of the law came within one vote of passing! This is a good sign for next year, especially as both major trash incinerator proposals in Maryland are now dead, and the smallest of three existing incinerators just closed for good in March.

The data for 2015 just came out, showing that
wind power declined for a second year in a row, while dirty "renewable" energy increased again, with biomass use nearly doubling while black liquor burning at paper mills also increased, though use of trash incineration thankfully fell.

Victory: Stopped a bad bill!

In related legislative efforts, the Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority was the subject of a battle we won. The Authority has been the driver behind existing and proposed waste incinerators in Maryland. In 2015, we worked with Caroline Eader and Frederick, Maryland residents (who fought off the Authority's incinerator proposal in an 8-year battle) to pass a bill redefining the Authority's mission to be about zero waste. The Authority objected and we came within one vote of passing the bill. In 2016's legislative session (that ends in early April each year), the Authority pushed a bill to expand their powers, pretending they were about "resource recovery parks," but seeking to be able to bond a wide range of waste and energy facilities, including many dirty technologies, while bypassing state utility approval processes.

Energy Justice staff, Dante Swinton and Mike Ewall, were the only ones to testify at the hearing before the Maryland Senate Environmental Committee. The Authority testified that "waste-to-energy" (incineration) is not politically or economically viable in Maryland, and insisted that they're a service organization to their member counties and that they'd follow the lead of the legislature if they prescribe a zero waste hierarchy.

The Senate committee then took the zero waste hierarchy straight from our testimony and amended that language into the Authority's bill. Within a day, the Authority interfered and replaced our zero waste hierarchy with EPA's waste hierarchy that includes incineration and puts it above landfilling, yet still branded it a "zero" waste hierarchy. This dreadful bill passed the Senate unanimously.

With help from Sierra Club and other allies, we beat back the bill in the House, with spectacular skepticism expressed by Maryland Delegates at the hearing where we all denounced the bill. In the course of all of this, we developed some good momentum to beat back incineration and push for true zero waste in the 2017 session.

See more at http://www.energyjustice.net/md

Baltimore Incinerator Proposal Permit Yanked

On March 17, the permit for the Energy Answers trash incinerator planned for the Curtis Bay neighborhood of Baltimore, Maryland was declared invalid by the Maryland Department of the Environment, capping years of protest from local residents and a student-led organization, Free Your Voice, part of United Workers.

Maryland “Zero-Waste” Plan Draws Fire Over Inclusion of Incineration

- by Timothy B. Wheeler, December 15, 2014, The Baltimore Sun

With Marylanders throwing away far more trash per person than the average American, the O'Malley administration released a long-range plan Monday to virtually eliminate placing waste in state landfills in the next 25 years. The plan is drawing mixed reaction, however, as environmentalists criticize the blueprint's embrace of burning debris to generate energy.

State officials say that curtailing placing waste in landfills can save communities and taxpayers money, conserve energy and natural resources, and reduce pollution, including the release of climate-warming greenhouse gases.

Marylanders have more than doubled their recycling rates in the past two decades, the plan notes, now diverting about 45 percent of what once was thrown away. However, the state's residents still discard more than half their waste, with most of that going to landfills, according to the Maryland Department of the Environment.

In a statement accompanying the plan's release, Gov. Martin O'Malley called it "an ambitious policy framework to create green jobs and business opportunities while virtually doing away with the inefficient waste disposal practices that threaten our future."

Incinerator in Frederick, MD Canceled After Decade-Long Fight

- by Patrice Gallagher, No Incinerator Alliance

On November 20, 2014, Frederick County, Maryland's Board of County Commissioners cancelled plans to build a 1500 ton-per-day waste-to-energy incinerator, ending a 10 year citizens' effort to kill the project and put better alternatives for community waste management in place.

The vote was 3 to 2, and all three who voted to cancel had previously supported the project.

As a citizen activist who has fought this project since 2006, it feels great to finally be able to put this terrible idea to rest, and begin to help our county focus on more recycling, repurposing and composting — perhaps in the form of a Resource Recovery Park, as many other communities around the nation are doing successfully.

How did we do it? I suppose the best answer I can give for this is: persistence. The organized opposition got its start with one woman who decided to educate herself and any other interested citizens by inviting to our community a national expert on sustainable waste management. He made a lot of sense to us... much more sense than those advocating for a large incinerator project — the Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority.

We began as a loose coalition of activists from many walks of life, most of whom had no knowledge or experience in waste management, but who educated ourselves along the way and were fortunate to eventually attract national experts and environmental organizations (including Energy Justice Network), engineers, lawyers and accountants to our ranks, who shared their expertise with us and helped us make the case against incineration, and in favor of other more economically and environmentally sound ways to think about our waste as a resource to be reused, not burned.

Commissioners Scrap Frederick, MD Incinerator Plan

- Associated Press, November 21, 2014, Herald-Mail

The Frederick County Commissioners are scrapping plans for a waste-to-energy incinerator after more than five years of debate.

The Frederick News-Post reported that the board voted 3-2 Thursday night to cancel a contract with Wheelabrator Technologies Inc. for the $471 million project.

The board unanimously voted in favor of hauling the county's trash to an out-of-state landfill for up to five years.

The project suffered a blow in April when Carroll County pulled out of an agreement to jointly fund the project.

The incinerator had been planned for an industrial park south of Frederick near the Monocacy National Battlefield. Opponents, including the National Park Service, had argued it would pollute the air and water, and obstruct views from the Civil War site.

Baltimore Residents Face Potential Risks from New Incinerator

- by Jaisal Noor, May 27, 2014, The Real News 

VIDEO HERE

JAISAL NOOR, TRNN PRODUCER: This is Baltimore's Benjamin Franklin High. Will a the country's largest incinerator, being built just one mile from here, endanger the health of the students at the school?

The Energy Answers Fairfield Renewable Energy Project will burn 4,000 tons of trash, shredded tires, and cars each day.

Supporters say it will adhere to the strictest air pollution controls in the country.

Maryland Dumps Incineration

- by Mike Ewall, Energy Justice Network

VICTORY!!  For a second year in a row, pro-incinerator legislation in Maryland was defeated.  This stealthy legislation was written by Covanta (the nation's largest trash incineration company) and would put Maryland on the path to burning nearly all of the waste that isn't recycled. 

The legislation takes the Renewable Portfolio Standard concept (which mandates a phase-in of renewable energy) and applies it to municipal solid waste (trash).  Without even mentioning incineration, this "Recycling and Landfill Diversion Portfolio Standard" would move the state toward increased recycling, but require that the remainder be diverted from direct dumping in landfills. Rather than move away from both landfills and incinerators, the bill would create the market for burning nearly all of the non-recycled waste in the state, before dumping the ash in landfills. This fits with efforts by many corporations and cities to hijack the concept of "zero waste" to make it mean "zero waste to landfill"— pushing incineration and pretending that the ash isn't then dumped in landfills.

In 2011, Maryland was the first state to bump trash incineration into Tier I of their Renewable Portfolio Standard, putting it in competition with wind power. This awful idea, pioneered in Maryland, is now being pushed in several other states. Please look out in your state for these covert attempts to promote incineration in the guise of recycling and "landfill diversion."

This bill in Maryland passed the Maryland House, but was stopped in the Senate when their Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee voted unanimously (11 to zero) to reject the bill. See www.energyjustice.net/md/ for more information on this and other pro-incineration bills we worked to stop (all of which are dead for this year).

Many thanks to all who helped stop this misguided legislation, most especially Greg Smith of Community Research and the following organizations: Assateague Coastal Trust, Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility, Clean Water Action, Community Research, Crabshell Alliance, Energy Justice Network, Food & Water Watch, Free Your Voice, Institute for Local Self-Reliance, No Incinerator Alliance, Sierra Club, United Workers, Waste Not! Carroll, Wicomico Environmental Trust, and Zero Waste Prince George's.

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