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.

The proposed incinerator would be the largest in the nation, burning 4,000 tons/day of refuse-derived fuel (trash pellets), tires, shredded cars and wood waste.  In 2015, all 22 public entities that signed up to buy the incinerator’s "renewable" electricity backed out of the contracts when they had the opportunity to do so, in response to a coalition campaign led by Free Your Voice and United Workers.

When debating Energy Answers’ CEO last month in a community meeting, we got them to admit that they have no waste contracts in hand. With no energy or waste contracts, and an invalidated air permit, we hope that Energy Answers will finally admit defeat. They’re clinging to their long-term lease over a large industrial property that the community would like to see repurposed for a solar project and other community-guided uses.

The air permit has been contested for a few years now, since Energy Answers failed to start construction within the required 18 month period. They were granted an extension, and still blew their construction deadlines, pretending to start, then leaving another 18 month period of no activity, which also violates air permits. We joined a couple hundred people in protesting the state environmental agency in December, when seven communities got arrested sitting in the agency’s offices.  Three months later, under sustained pressure, the permit, initially granted in 2010, was invalidated.

According to the Environmental Integrity Project, the southeast Baltimore area around Curtis Bay had the highest amount of air pollution in Maryland in 2007 and 2008, first in the country for quantity of toxic air pollutants. Baltimore has the highest rate of air pollution deaths in the nation.

Baltimore is considered an environmental justice community with high percentages of communities of color.

Southeast Baltimore still hosts the nation’s largest medical waste incinerator, Curtis Bay Energy, and the Quarantine Road Landfill, which accepts ash from the Wheelabrator Baltimore trash incinerator, in operation since 1985. Burning up to 2,250 tons/day, Wheelabrator is the largest of two remaining trash incinerators in the state, and is the city’s largest polluter.  Energy Justice Network is leading the campaign to close it down.