- Covanta is planning to close its waste-to-energy (WTE) facility in Pittsfield, MA due to economic conditions. This has left the city and one local manufacturer with tough choices about what to do next.
- Local officials have said it will likely cost more money to export waste to an outside city or town. Possible options include a Covanta facility in Canaan, NY or another facility in Springfield, MA.
- Crane & Co.—the only manufacturer of paper for U.S. currency—would also be affected because it uses electricity and steam from Covanta. Without the WTE facility, Crane could end up spending millions of dollars on a new boiler to generate steam.
The WTE facility was built in 1981 and is one of the oldest of its kind. Covanta took over the facility in 2007 and signed a new contract last year that would have extended operations through June 2020. Yet the company has since decided that it's not feasible invest in the facility long-term.
"High operating costs and the size of the facility have made it increasingly difficult to run the plant profitably," James Regan, director of communications and media relations for Covanta, told the Berkshire Eagle last month. "Barring a change to the current revenue structure, the economics do not work to justify continued operations and the necessary investments."
Both the city and Crane are hoping to find a third-party operator to take over the facility. The Massachusetts state legislature recently passed an energy bill that includes tax credits for WTE facilities which could provide an added incentive if it's signed by the governor.
Despite these local challenges, environmental groups such as the Sierra Club have cheered the news and say this is an opportunity for Pittsfield to focus on recycling and other solutions. While this strategy shouldn't be ruled out, it will take years to fully implement and won't result in a complete elimination of refuse. WTE isn't always a popular option, but if the Covanta facility closes next spring, a landfill will likely be Pittsfield's only other alternative in the short-term.