Victory for Clean Air: Maryland Decides Against Nation’s Largest Trash Incinerator
Maryland Department of the Environment Finds that Permit has Expired for Construction of Energy Answers Incinerator in South Baltimore
Baltimore, Md., March 17, 2016 – Clean air advocates and residents of Baltimore today praised a decision by Maryland nullifying approval to build what would be the largest trash burning incinerator in the U.S.
The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) found today that the New York-based developers of the Energy Answers waste-to-energy plant, proposed for Fairfield, allowed the project’s permit to expire when they stopped construction on October 31, 2013.
“This is a great decision for clean air and for environmental justice,” said Leah Kelly, Attorney with the Environmental Integrity Project. “This plant would have been a large source of toxic air pollution in an area that already has a high air pollution burden. MDE is charged with enforcing the letter of the law, and it is had done so with this decision.”
For a copy of the MDE decision letter, click here.
Many residents of the Curtis Bay, Brooklyn, and Brooklyn Park neighborhoods closest to the incinerator site – including a student-led organization called Free Your Voice – have been fighting the proposed 4,000-ton-per-day trash burning incinerator because of the air pollution that it would add to a neighborhood already suffering from toxic air emissions.
Destiny Watford, a local resident who has been leading the campaign against the incinerator, said: “Today marks a crucial point in the communities of Brooklyn, Curtis Bay and Brooklyn Park. Community members have been working to bring truly green community driven positive alternatives like solar, recycling, and composting that provide good jobs for residents, and don’t put our lives at risk. The incinerator was holding us back from that positive vision. “
Charles Graham, a senior at Benjamin Franklin High School who has been fighting the project, said: “It’s awesome that MDE, after all of the pressure we’ve been building, is finally taking a step in the right direction. I’m just happy that it’s finally happening and see it as an opportunity for city and state officials to help support working towards the community’s vision for positive fair development alternatives to the incinerator.”
Rodette Jones, a longtime Curtis Bay resident and manager of the Filbert Street Garden, said: “This is awesome. Curtis Bay residents fought and we won and now our vision is finally coming into focus. Now we can roll up our sleeves and get to work on our plans for community driven alternatives for solar and recycling. The people stood up to a threat to our health and environment and this is a big victory. “
On February 10, the Environmental Integrity Project filed a notice of intent to sue Energy Answers on behalf of local residents and advocates over the status of the permit. Under the federal Clean Air Act, approval to build a major source of air pollution, like the Energy Answers incinerator, expires if a company halts construction for a period of eighteen months or more. This law prevents companies from avoiding newer air pollution requirements that may have been passed since a permit was issued.
Instead of an incinerator, the community has been pushing for more positive development alternatives that would create truly green jobs without putting residents’ health at risk. Possibilities include a solar energy farm, and recycling and composting facilities.
Watford, the local campaign leader, said: “Since August, doctors, environmentalists, and community members that wanted to see the incinerator project come to an end, have been reaching out to MDE, stating why the incinerator project is not only a failure, but is also fundamentally wrong. We are incredibly proud of the MDE for making the right decision helping us move forward towards a future filled with truly green developments. Now, more than ever, is the time for our public officials to stand with residents as we work to make our positive vision a reality.”
On December 15, 2015, more than 100 protesters gathered at MDE headquarters to demand that the state nullify the expired permit for Energy Answers. “Pull the permit!” the protesters chanted.
Seven of the protestors conducted a sit-in, refusing to leave the building until MDE issued a decision that the permit had expired. In response, dozens of police officers arrived to arrest the seven protestors engaging in civil disobedience, including a local high school student and a physician who opposes the incinerator project. The charges were later dropped.
After the protest at MDE on Dec. 15, the activists returned to the state agency to drop off petitions signed by almost 2,000 people. The petitions asked the state to find the incinerator permit invalid.
The Environmental Integrity Project is a 14-year-old nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to holding polluters and governments accountable and to protecting public health.
The United Workers is a Baltimore- based human rights organization, founded in 2002 by homeless day laborers, that is dedicated to building a movement to end poverty and to securing economic human rights through fair development.