Albany Times Union: Trash burner ends subsidy bid
(December 10, 2011) -
By BRIAN NEARING, Staff writer
ALBANY — A bid to make electricity created by burning of residential trash eligible for state renewable energy subsidies has been dropped by New Jersey-based Covanta Energy Corp., which operates five trash-to-power burn plants in the state.
Covanta withdrew its request Thursday from the state Public Service Commission; this is the third time since 2004 that Covanta had unsuccessfully sought the subsidies, which already go to solar, wind, biomass and landfill methane power projects under the state Renewable Portfolio Standard.
The subsidies come from a surcharge on consumer utility bills.
Environmental groups that had come out against extending the subsidies to trash burning called Covanta's withdrawal a victory.
Attempts to reach Covanta for comment Friday were not successful.
A letter withdrawing the request, filed Thursday with the PSC by Covanta counsel William Hurst, did not list reasons.
Last month, the PSC put off a decision on the request after PSC staff recommended that it be rejected because trash burning has significantly higher emissions than traditional coal-fired power plants.
"This withdrawal is very important nationally," said Monica Wilson, U.S. director of the California-based Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, an environmental not-for-profit group that tracks incinerator issues nationwide.
Wilson said other states including Illinois, Arizona and Texas have decided not to make trash burning eligible for such renewable subsidies. Maryland approved Convanta's request for subsidies.
"We see what happened in New York as a very positive step that is part of a trend nationally," she said. "This is dirty energy that is cloaked as clean energy, and it is an industry that is desperate for state funds."
Among its 44 facilities nationwide, Covanta operates plants in Dutchess County; in Nassau and Suffolk counties on Long Island; in Onondaga County in central New York; and in Niagara County in western New York. The company said it was seeking the subsidies for new projects, not its existing plants, and needed the subsidies to compete with landfills on the cost of waste disposal.
In New York, the Covanta request was opposed by groups including the Alliance for Clean Energy New York, American Lung Association in New York, Center for Health, Environment & Justice, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Citizens' Environmental Coalition, Clean and Healthy New York, Consumers Union, Earthjustice, Environmental Advocates of New York, Natural Resources Defense Council, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, New York Public Interest Research Group and the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter.