UPDATE: The Municipal Review Committee voted to approve spending more than $1 million to purchase and develop the 90 acres of land where the Fiberight facility will be located. Construction of an access road and installation of utility lines is projected to be complete by the spring of 2017.
This decision is seen as somewhat controversial because Fiberight's plan are currently on hold pending the appeal of its DEP permits. Financing can't be finalized and construction can't begin until this is resolved, which may be next summer at the earliest. The facility must be operational by April 1, 2018 when the current contract with the Penobscot Energy Recovery Company ends. If Fiberight isn't ready, the more than 100 communities that have signed on will have to send their waste to a landfill in the town of Norridgewock.
- Maine's Department of Environmental Protection issued the three final permits needed for Fiberight to move ahead with its $69 million waste-to-energy biogas facility in the town of Hampden.
- More than 100 communities have signed on so far, but the Municipal Review Committee (MRC)—a nonprofit organization—still hasn't met its minimum contracted tonnage goal. Fiberight says that tonnage from the remaining municipalities and organizations left to make a decision will be enough to make the facility viable.
- The company expects to complete engineering and financing later this summer. Construction will begin in 2017 and the facility could potentially open earlier than its anticipated April 2018 start date.
This final state approval is a big step for the Maryland-based company's efforts to change the dynamic of waste processing in Maine after the Penobscot Energy Recovery Company's (PERC) contract expires in 2018. PERC has done its best to discredit this proposal—even airing negative radio ads—but analysis by the Bangor Daily News finds that Fiberight has secured far more tonnage. A few municipalities have also said they'll likely go with the cheaper option of landfilling.
This process has been challenging and Fiberight had to reduce its original plans for a 180,000 ton facility down to 110,000. As of last week the company had a little more than 100,000 tons committed, though the town of Bucksport signed on last Thursday. Fiberight also anticipates that the town of Blue Hill and the Mid-Coast Solid Waste Corp.—a regional solid waste cooperative—will sign on in upcoming votes as well.
In a press release, the company's CEO Craig Stuart-Paul was confident about the project's future.
"This puts us one step further to realizing the type of waste diversion and recycling experienced in hundreds of advanced waste processing plants in Europe, a solution that the U.S. has been slow to adopt. Maine has long held a special respect for its environment, and the state is leading the way in environmentally beneficial solid waste management with its approval of our permits," he said.
Some groups, including the Natural Resources Council of Maine and the Environment and Natural Resource Committee of the Legislature, were critical of the state's decision. At this point they seem to have little recourse for challenging the permit approvals and the project is expected to move forward.