With just days left before the state must choose a developer to modernize the aging trash-to-energy plant in Hartford, one of three finalists may have to scrap its proposal to send 116,000 tons of garbage out of state.
It’s not unusual for private waste management companies to ship trash to landfills across state lines, according to the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. What is unusual is the plan submitted by Newport Beach, Calif.-based Mustang Renewable Power Ventures — to turn about 11 percent of the waste it would handle into a form of alternative energy, which it then hoped to send to a cement plant in Coeymans, N.Y.
As it turns out, residents wanted nothing to do with the plan, which Town Supervisor Philip Crandall lambasted in a letter to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy earlier this month and at a news conference with other elected officials on Wednesday.
And the cement plant wasn’t interested in Mustang’s plan either, according to its owner, Chicago-based company LafargeHolcim. The plant isn’t capable of accepting the trash-based energy, called “process engineered fuel,” and it didn’t give Mustang permission to include the plant in its proposal, LafargeHolcim spokeswoman Jocelyn Gerst.
“The fact is that we and Mustang Renewable Power Ventures agreed to talk about the possibility of using alternative fuels, but that is all,” she said. “There are no contracts, agreements, or plans for the Ravena plant to work with this company and, in fact, we have determined that we will not be pursuing a relationship with Mustang Renewable Power Ventures at our Ravena plant in the future.”
She added that the company was “as upset as others about being named, without our consent, as a potential destination for these materials.”
Mustang did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday. The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has until Sunday to choose a developer and said it was aware Mustang would need to find another destination for the process engineered fuel.
DEEP spokesman Chris Collibee said he is not aware of any companies in Connecticut creating or using that form of alternative energy.
“If this bidder were to be selected — and they are one of three finalists — they will be required to develop a final project that meets all federal and state environmental as well as human health standards and permitting requirements, including seeking local approvals, whenever necessary, for any activities conducted in other states,” Collibee said.
Mustang’s plan is one of three under consideration by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to redevelop the trash-to-energy plant in the South Meadows, which handles one-third of the state’s garbage.
The other finalists are Coventa, a Morristown, N.J.-based company that runs waste-to-energy programs in multiple states and has contracts in 30 Connecticut towns; and Sacyr Rooney Recovery Team, a corporate entity involving a renewable energy company from Spain and Manhattan Construction out of New York.
State officials say all three plans call for major increases in the amount of trash that is diverted or recovered from the nearly 900,000 tons of municipal garbage the old regional plant in Hartford’s South Meadows now takes in each year.
Currently, about 35 percent of all that trash is recycled in one way or another, with the rest being burned in the old plant to create electricity.
The different proposals include plans to increase that diversion rate anywhere from 55 percent to 75 percent, according to a report to the legislature.
Mustang proposes diverting 75 percent of waste from landfills and incineration; 20 percent would be diverted organically through anaerobic digestion and composting and 9 percent would go through mixed-waste processing recyclable recovery.
About 11 percent of the waste would become the alternative energy called “process engineered fuel.”
Meanwhile, Crandall said he would continue fighting any efforts to burn refuse at the Lafarge plant, whether or not it’s a form of alternative fuel.
“We don’t want any trash burnt in our town,” he said. “It just leads to more air pollution and dirty air, soil and water is something we don’t want.”
Here’s a look at highlights of each of three proposals:
COVANTA – Close the current South Meadows recycling facility, turning it into a major garbage transfer station. All waste and diverted materials would be recycled at other Covanta-owned or third-party facilities, such as Covanta’s garbage-to-energy plant in Bristol. A Hartford region curbside organic waste recycling program, like the test program now being conducted in West Hartford, would be created, with the food waste going to “anaerobic digestion” plants to make electricity or to composting facilities. Any waste not recycled or burned would be put in landfills.
MUSTANG – Would also close the Hartford trash-to-energy plant. The South Meadows site would be used to separate recyclables, with organic food waste being processed at on-site anaerobic digestion tanks that would produce methane for fuel to make energy. Remaining trash would be processed to make fuel, with some remaining material shipped by train to landfill sites.
SACYR-ROONEY – The South Meadows plant would be refurbished and upgraded with new high-technology systems for energy generation. Materials for recycling would be pulled out of the waste stream using new “on-site sorting lines.” Organic food waste would also be processed in anaerobic digestion tanks, and a new type of glass recovery system would also be used.