Maryland officials plan to require emissions reduction at Baltimore WTE facility
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misinterpreted the U.S. Conference of Mayors' new renewable energy definition. USCM's definition of renewable energy does not include incineration of municipal waste.
- Maryland officials are planning to set forth new rules this summer that would require the Baltimore Refuse Energy Systems Co. (BRESCO) waste-to-energy (WTE) plant in Baltimore to cut emissions to an output level similar to other WTE facilities in the state, as reported by The Baltimore Sun.
- BRESCO is the sixth-largest producer of nitrogen oxides in Maryland, and state officials want to bring the plant into compliance with federal standards from 2008. Wheelabrator Technologies, which owns and operates BRESCO, told the Sun that it is "cautiously optimistic" that BRESCO could get its nitrogen oxide emissions down to 150 parts per million.
- Last year, BRESCO's combustion of over 161,000 tons of garbage — representing about 80% of all the city's refuse — generated over 1,100 tons of nitrogen oxides. According to the Sun, a newer WTE facility in Montgomery County emits "half as much" nitrogen oxides, compared to 20-year-old BRESCO.
BRESCO has been a prime target for environmentalists in Baltimore and has even drawn in some unfavorable press attention for the city, so it's not shocking to see the state government step in. Gov. Hogan recently scrapped the state's "zero waste" plans, which one advocate said eliminates a "pro-incinerator spin" that was insinuated in those plans, so targeting BRESCO can offer an interesting look into how other state incinerators may be affected.
However activists who want to see the facility shuttered instead of altered may ultimately be disappointed, as WTE continues to be a viable disposal method globally. WTE plants continue to pop up around the world, from Mexico City to the United Kingdom. In the U.S., local governments are expanding agreements for "traditional" WTE and exploring long-term biogas development. As much as activists may want to shutter BRESCO, it seems exceedingly more likely that city and state officials will work with Wheelabrator to compromise on operation standards instead.
- The Baltimore Sun Maryland moving to cut emissions from BRESCO trash incinerator
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