Update on the Proposed Frederick County and Carroll County, MD Garbage Incinerator

Update on the Proposed Frederick County and Carroll County, MD Garbage Incinerator

Organized citizens and small business people of Carroll and Frederick Counties, MD have been fighting a proposed garbage incinerator for 8 years. Most recently the news has been filled with suggestions that the deal may be dissolving.

Carroll County had the first breakthrough. After extensive public hearings where the overwhelming number of participants expressed opposition, the plan for the incinerator continued to move forward. Carroll County citizens continued to object. On their own they formed a working group to focus on the contracts, costs and politics of the plant. They called expert witnesses and explored the state of the art composting, recycling, incineration, transfer stations and landfills. Within 6 months they produced a detailed report that outlined a zero waste approach to replace the need for the proposed incinerator. County Commissioners could not ignore the report. Within six months of the report being issued the Commissioners reversed their decision and decided to quit the partnership with Frederick County. Carroll County set aside $3 million to cover the cost of possible penalties for backing out of the contract.

Frederick citizens and small business people had a tougher row to hoe. After all, the incinerator was the brainchild of Frederick County Commissioners and solid waste management staff. So Frederick County officials, Wheelabrator, Inc., the Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority (NMWDA) and consultants hung tough. They were being well paid for their efforts with promises of bigger paydays in the future.

But the relentless efforts of Frederick County’s organized opposition may be prevailing in an unexpected turnaround. Year-round events, meetings and participation in media opportunities keep the issue very much in the public’s mind.

Analysis of the deal revealed inconsistencies, questionable financial representations, conflicts of interest, unfounded assumptions and lack of objective thinking. Yet, for Frederick County the deal was a moving train and no one was supposed to get in front of it, but the citizens and small business people refused to get off the tracks.

Public discussion of the careful dissection of the contract by citizens revealed that billions of public dollars are at stake, and could not be swept under the rug.  It turns out that citizens were the only ones to actually read and comprehend the substantial and alarming legal and related financial risks of the long-term contract. The county would be committed to the highest possible environmental and financial costs and risks when simpler alternatives were apparent throughout numerous cities and counties across the US. No County official knew the content of what they had signed away. The information publicized by citizens was stunning. The contract heavily favored the NMWDA and Wheelabrator, Inc. while the county faces liabilities to be backed by tax payers.. The clauses seem so egregious that there is a chance that Frederick County or Carroll County may not face penalties for withdrawing from the agreement. In addition, the company and the state agency failed to meet a four-year deadline in getting the project started.

For the most recent updates on the proposed Frederick County garbage incinerator see Carroll County Times and, the Frederick News Post story, and the statement of Carroll County Commissioner Richard Rothschild, “Breaking Up is Hard To Do”.

Zero Waste Carroll County and No Incineration Frederick County are the two citizen groups in opposition to the incinerator for the past eight years. The following organizations have been assisting these local groups: Clean Water Action, Community Resources, Energy Justice Network, ILSR, Sierra Club Catoctin Group, Maryland.


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Neil Seldman

Neil Seldman, Ph.D, directs the Recycling and Economic Growth Initiative. He specializes in helping cities and businesses recover increasing amounts of materials from the waste stream and add value to the local economy through new processing and manufacturing facilities. He is a co-founder of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and is a member of ILSR's Board of Directors.

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