State judge denies permit appeal in win for Fiberight WTE project

Dive Brief:

  • A Superior Court judge in Maine issued a ruling on March 15 that upholds state permit approval for the Fiberight project, despite an appeal from multiple competitors, as reported by the Bangor Daily News.
  • The Penobscot Energy Recovery Co. (PERC), USA Energy of Minnesota and Exeter Agri-Energy filed an appeal to the state Department of Environmental Protection's permit approval last summer on the grounds that there were "serious deficiencies in the record" with Fiberight's capabilities. Judicial review found that Fiberight provided all necessary documentation and the DEP's approval of all permits was valid.
  • The USA Energy Group, majority owner of PERC, issued a statement saying that it accepts the court's decision and will not pursue further legal action. Though the company didn't back down from its original claims and said it was "concerned about the precedent that the DEP has set for future development projects."

Dive Insight:

This decision has been celebrated as a key victory for Fiberight and its partner, the Municipal Review Committee (MRC), in a contentious process to make their $69 million waste-to-energy project a reality. After commitments from 115 municipalities were lined up, ground was broken at the site and a lawsuit was resolved between the MRC and the USA Energy Group, this was one of the last remaining obstacles. A decision from the Finance Authority of Maine on $45 million in conduit bonds is expected to come later this month.

Speculation about what will happen after PERC's current contract with the MRC's member municipalities expires next year has sparked much discussion in the state, but the Fiberight project has also been drawing national attention. The company's plans for a "targeted fuel extraction" process that will create cellulosic sugars, biogas and digestate fiber are unique within the U.S. and being watched closely in the waste-to-energy sector. Since some municipalities are wary of the potential risk involved with new conversion technologies, Fiberight's planned April 2018 opening will be of great interest to many in the industry.

With this decision finalized, it's still unclear how the PERC waste-to-energy facilitiy will make up for lost business once its current contract expires next year. The company has said it is making investments in the facility and continuing to line up new customers. Exeter Agri-Energy can expect to see increased business from a five-year organics processing contract with the nonprofit ecomaine. The company's anaerobic digester will soon begin receiving food waste from two curbside collection pilots in southern Maine and more municipalities could join in the coming months.

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Filed Under: Corporate News Waste-to-Energy
Top image credit: Makaristos