Waste-to-Energy Dirtier Than Coal-Fired Power Plants, Report Claims

Capital News Service

ANNAPOLIS -- A report released Thursday argues that waste-to-energy incinerators are not truly renewable, despite Maryland's waste-to-energy sector being placed in the same renewable energy class as solar and wind power.

The nonprofit Environmental Integrity Project issued the report, which claims that the state’s two major waste-to-energy incinerators produce more pollution than some coal-fired power plants.

“This report really shows that waste-to-energy incineration is not clean, and it’s not renewable, and it’s not the best option for the economy,” said EIP research analyst and report author Robbie Orvis.

The Montgomery County Resource Recovery Facility and the Wheelabrator Baltimore Incinerator both produce more mercury, lead and greenhouse gases per hour of energy than each of the state’s four largest coal-fired power plants, Orvis concluded based on an analysis of publicly available emissions reports submitted to the Maryland Department of the Environment.

Maryland’s waste-to-energy plants also generate a significant amount of dioxins and incinerator ash, which can contain toxic materials, the report states.

In addition to the two major incinerators Maryland has already, there are plans to build or expand existing plants in Baltimore, Harford County and Frederick County.

In May, Gov. Martin O'Malley signed into law a bill making waste-to-energy incineration a Tier 1 renewable resource, including it in the Clean Energy Production Tax Credit program and Renewable Portfolio Standard.

"By reclassifying trash incineration energy as Tier 1, Maryland decreases incentives to invest in much cleaner forms of energy that are truly renewable, such as wind and solar," said EIP attorney Leah Kelly.

O’Malley’s office had no comment on the report, but spokeswoman Raquel Guillory said the governor will look at it.

Lori Scozzafava, deputy executive director of the Solid Waste Association of North America, had not seen the report but said waste-to-energy facilities meet federal air quality standards “and are considered a renewable energy source.”