An effort to build a waste-to-energy incinerator in Frederick County remains on ice as the state weighs a trio of environmental permits.

County officials expected the permitting process would be wrapped up by August. More than a month later, they are not sure how much longer it will take. With leaders from Frederick County, Carroll County and possibly other jurisdictions locked in a holding pattern, Commissioners President Blaine Young says the fate of the waste-to-energy project is unclear.

"I think it's a coin toss," Young said. "I don't feel confident to say the project is dead. I don't feel confident to say the project is a go."

Frederick County leaders are waiting to determine whether it still makes financial sense to build a facility that would consume trash to generate electricity. Carroll County, a partner in the project, wants to back out, but must find a replacement or pay a fine. And no replacement partner is going to show serious interest until the project secures its approvals from the Maryland Department of the Environment, Young said.

"Nobody really knows where these permits are at and where the issue is here," he said.

A spokeswoman for the state agency wrote in late September that "MDE is still working through the permit process" and doesn't have a set date for completion.

Michael Marschner, Frederick County's special projects manager, said MDE had extended its deadline for comments on the air, water and soil discharge permits and was sorting through additional input.

If there's nothing from MDE by the year's end, commissioners will have to start talking about alternatives to the project, Young said.

County leaders began discussing an incinerator several years ago as they grappled with dwindling landfill space and the expense of trucking trash to distant dump sites. It now costs more than $51 per ton to haul and dispose of waste outside of the county, Marschner said.

Carroll County leaders initially wanted to partner with Frederick County to build the trash-burning facility. However, Carroll County retreated from its initial interest. In June, Carroll County commissioners set aside funds to pay the $3 million penalty for backing out of the project.

Carroll County officials could avoid the fine by finding a replacement partner for Frederick County, but if they are unable to do so before the environmental permits are issued, they plan to simply bow out.

Bruce Holstein, an opponent of the waste-to-energy effort, said MDE officials might be biding their time to see what happens to the project.

"Everybody is waiting for somebody else to do something," he said. "If I'm correct that MDE is waiting to see whether this thing falls apart, this may go on for quite some time."

Young says the incinerator is not a financially viable option unless Frederick County has a partner.

But it makes no sense for Frederick County to call it quits at this point, he said; doing so would mean sharing preliminary project costs with Carroll County rather than letting the neighboring jurisdiction back out and pay the full penalty.

If the permits are approved, two of them will be good for five years. The air permit requires that construction begin within 18 months and finish within a "reasonable period of time."

In the event that MDE denies the permits, the decision would likely be appealed, Marschner said.

Young said choosing between the incinerator and alternatives might be the first large decision confronting county leaders after the 2014 election.

Officials could decide to continue trucking trash out of the area, Marschner said. The county's main waste disposal contract is good through April 24, 2015.

Opening a new landfill inside Frederick County is another way to go, but could take 10 years or more, he said.

Holstein said Carroll County leaders are exploring options such as a pay-as-you-throw program that gives an incentive to recycle.

Follow Bethany Rodgers on Twitter: @BethRodgersFNP.

(8) comments

carolineeader

Guido, you have not provided complete information. About the McKinney location: For one vote Gardner voted against the site next to the Monocacy Battlefield, and we all understand that is because she had Thompson, Jenkins and Gray voting in favor of that location. However, she could have voted for language in the comp plan which would have protected the battlefield from being neighbors to a trash incinerator. Kai voted for this language to be included, but Gardner did not. Any claim that she was against the incinerator is incorrect.

guido207

The vote on the Gardner BOCC was 3-2 in of favor of WTE, with Commissioners Gray, Thompson, and Jenkins voting in favor of WTE, and Commissioners Gardner and Hagen against.

All five current members of the BOCC, Young, Shreve, Delauter, Smith and Gray campaigned (and won) in support of WTE!

However, I think its high time we started holding Ms. Gardner accountable for global warming, rising gas prices, and that terrible performance the other night by Miley Cyrus.

japorciento

Guido: Thanks for injecting some common sense, here! It's all Jan's fault: Blaine said so, except for the times he said it was all Obama's fault or O'Malley's fault or the immigrants, or the new home buyers, and those city folk, and the Head Start kids, and the old people... EEEEEEE HAWWWWW!

pixie-dust

If it costs $51/ton to haul and dispose of waste out of county, does that mean the net cost of WTE would be lower?

If so, then WTE could be a profit center. The county could attract waste from other jurisdictions. On the other hand, if WTE will cost more than $51/ ton, why bother?

This sounds like something that a small business owner could understand without difficulty.

adtwiggiv

The proposed fee was $64/ton to burn the trash, but that was based on a volume of trash about two-thirds more than the county generates. The project makes no sense at all. The only way that the incinerator could beat $51/ton is through subsidies paid for by property owners on their tax bill.

pixie-dust

If we can haul and dump at $51/ton, I imagine others can as well.

Why would any other jurisdiction want to bring their trash here at $64/ton?

jerseygrl42

Hey Pixie
Take a look at the taxpayer subsidies in Mont. cnty for its incinerator in Dickerson, $41.5 Million last year and their incinerator cost less than half what the Frederick one will cost to construct and the same lies we are being told by the waste authority about ours being a money maker , they were told 20 years ago....they are telling us they will sell the paltry amount of electricity at 8.73 cents per kwh...check what you paid retail last month...6.2 cents dropping to 5.6 cents next month...that little slip of the pencil will cost the taxpayers in Frederick $660 million over the life of the contract and the operator will also fill up Reichs Ford landfill with toxic ash from the incinerator in 14 years at which time we will spend $25 million to build another one...get the truth at no-incinerator alliance web site...and Fred you are spot on, blaine and his cohorts have the power to end this insanity...ever wonder why he/they do not????

Fred7generations

This project never did make sense from a financial angle, but it went forward thanks to Jan Gardner. What a waste of money. Get rid of that group out of Baltimore who likes to spend the County's money. Blaine and company can stop the foolishness - get out now.

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