The Frederick Board of County Commissioners announced Friday that the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) has issued the three major environmental permits required to move forward with construction of the regional waste-to-energy project planned for Frederick County. The project brings a reliable post-recycled waste solution to the county while generating clean, renewable energy; creating hundreds of local jobs and economic stimulus, and meeting stringent environmental standards.
As stated by the agency, "The Maryland Department of the Environment has made final determinations to issue permits for a proposed waste-to-energy facility in Frederick County. The department is issuing permits and approvals that require the proposed facility to meet all applicable environmental laws and regulations for air emissions, water discharge and refuse disposal. The permits and approvals are effective February 21, 2014."
The solid waste, air and water discharge permits for the waste-to-energy facility were issued by Maryland environmental officials following an extensive public engagement process - including five public information meetings, two public hearings and an almost six-month period in which the state accepted written comments on its proposed permits.
Board President Blaine Young commented, "There is a real opportunity here for us to make a difference in the lives of many working families in Frederick County by moving forward with this waste-to-energy project and using our solid waste disposal dollars to create Frederick County jobs.
"There has been an unprecedented effort to engage the public and solicit constructive citizen input at every step of the permit review process - from dozens of hours of public meetings to hundreds of letters, e-mails and phone calls. We appreciate the tremendous effort put in by MDE to consider everyone’s views. We will now take the time to carefully review the permits from beginning to end," added President Young.
Upon release of the permits, the agency also stated, "MDE’s technical analysis of the permit and approval applications has shown that the facility can be built and operated in a manner that is fully in compliance with Maryland law and regulation to protect public health and the environment. The air quality permits and approvals include requirements to limit and mitigate mercury emissions that are more stringent than what is required under state and federal law.
"Environmental laws and regulations provide for public participation in the permit application process. MDE highly values public review and comment. The department conducted a public hearing on the water discharge permit application and another public hearing on the air, water and refuse disposal permit and approval applications. Nearly 100 people testified at the hearings. The department also received written comments from more than 1,800 individuals and several organizations. All comments were considered."
Executive Director Chris Skaggs of the Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority (NMWDA) said his agency looks forward to moving ahead with preparation for financing and construction of the project for Frederick County and a new partner jurisdiction should Carroll County formally withdraw from the project. "Waste-to-energy has consistently been shown to be a valuable part of a reliable, long-term, and cost-effective waste management solution," Skaggs said. "The state also recognizes energy produced from waste-to-energy facilities as Tier 1 renewable energy, which is particularly important for Maryland’s efforts to boost the amount of energy generated by renewable sources."
The regional waste-to-energy facility has been studied by Frederick County public officials for almost a decade, and it has been supported by two independent Boards of County Commissioners as well as a majority of Frederick County’s state legislative delegation.
County officials support the waste-to-energy project for a number of reasons, including:
· Frederick County transfers more than 90 percent of its trash to out-of-state landfills due to the county’s limited landfill capacity. This method is unpredictable and has cost the county more than $83 million since the transfer was first initiated. With a regional waste-to-energy facility, Frederick County could save millions of taxpayer dollars as compared to other waste disposal methods.
· County residents will benefit from hundreds of jobs created locally during the project’s construction as well as 30 or more years of expected operation.
· The facility will generate clean, renewable energy for tens of thousands of Maryland homes
· Local residents and businesses will benefit from millions of dollars in positive economic impact during the facility construction and operation.
· The facility will meet stringent state and federal environmental standards while producing clean, renewable energy, and will increase the recycling of scrap metals and other materials that otherwise would be landfilled.
The previous Board of County Commissioners selected a site adjacent to the Ballenger-McKinney Wastewater Treatment Plant for the waste-to-energy facility. This site was already owned by the county and will allow the facility to use treated effluent from the plant for its process water. In addition, the facility will thermally treat up to 50,000 tons of sewage sludge per year from the wastewater treatment plant, thus reducing land application of the sludge and the contribution of nutrients to the Chesapeake Bay. Treatment and recovery of energy from the sludge at this location will also allow the county to avoid construction of a $50 million sludge processing system.