A Incineration Skeptic Decides
Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – When my wife and I visited Frederick last month, I ran into a candidate for county commissioner. “Okay, Kai, what do you have against incinerators?” I asked. “Too expensive”, he replied” standard answer for everything I thought.
Kai Hagen is running for Frederick county commissioner and I endorsed him in my last column, but I purposely did not mention the incinerator because I had not done my research
“This thing doesn’t sound too bad, in fact, it makes sense. No pollution, money coming in from burning everyone else’s garbage and a very easy way to stop trash from ending up in landfills,” I said to myself.
Then the Harrisburg, PA, experience came in. They are now contemplating bankruptcy, trying to find someone…anyone…to take over their albatross and are going to default on the bonds issued to finance the incinerator.
Whoa! What happened to the idea that burning everyone else’s trash would pay for this huge expenditure? Something is funny with the math. The numbers added up when they decided to build the incinerator, but when the thing got up and running the math changed into voodoo numbers.
I then checked into Covanta Energy, the company who was running the Harrisburg facility. It is owned by Sam Zell, a billionaire who owns many international companies.
The Los Angeles Times said Mr. Zell took “bean counting to a whole new level.” Just as I thought, funny math.
As I researched further, I ended up on page six of Google, the previous pages were all press releases from Covanta, and found out the share prices were downgraded. The author stated the company would do worse during the recovery than during the recession. That makes no sense to me, but I am not any good at counting beans.
Then I tried to find who was trying to sell the incinerator to Frederick County. According to news articles the Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority would govern the plant with Carroll and Frederick counties being their only two customers. A company called Wheelabrator would build and run the plant. But who is Wheelabrator?
I searched Google, and again, the first six pages were press releases from the company. I went to their home page and discovered they have the exact same background picture as Covanta Energy, the firm that screwed up the Harrisburg facility.
Here are some of the results of my Google search after plowing through the corporate web sites. There must be hundreds of them.
From 1993-2007, The Spokane Waste to Energy Board (similar to the proposed Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority) revealed that Wheelabrator was responsible for a scam involving the recovery of waste metal. Wheelabrator “wrongfully shortchanged the Spokane Waste to Energy Board at least $380,000 for the year 2006 and several millions of dollars over the life of the contract.”
Still buried in corporate propaganda, Scorecard, the pollution information site, rated Wheelabrator’s Frackville, PA, site as one of the worst and dirtiest site in the United States for 2002. The site was also rated up there for pollution release.
In Claremont, NH, the city council deeded 51 acres surrounding their incinerator to Wheelabrator after purchasing them with tax money. Is such an agreement in the Frederick County deal?
Beveridge and Diamond, a law firm, brags on its home page that it successfully defeats citizen’s lawsuits. One of their victories was Environmental Defense Fund vs. Wheelabrator Technologies.
The Southeast Public Service Authority of Portsmouth, VA, agreed to sell their incinerator to Wheelabrator for $150 million to help pay off debts of $240 million incurred by the plant.
These are only a few of the news stories and lawsuits about Wheelabrator. Wheelabrator and Covanata Energy, I suspect, are owned by the same parent company.
From all of my research, it seems Wheelabrator tactics are to mismanage the plant and then purchase it from the municipality for much less than its worth. Gaining control, it can then charge whatever they want.
My research also demonstrates incinerators throughout the United States have a very questionable record especially those managed by Wheelabrator. Of particular concern is Wheelabrator’s hiring of a law firm to quash citizen opposition once in control. One must also question the role Wheelabrator plays and has played in this Frederick County election.
I urge everyone to elect candidates who are opposed to the incinerator. They include Linda Norris, Janice Wiles, Ellis Burrus, and Kai Hagen.
. . . . .life is good…