South Baltimore incinerator opponents applaud stop-work order

MDE says Energy Answers failed to purchase pollution offsets, faces fines of up to $8 million

energy answers incinerator 1

In December, students left flowers at the fence of a former chemical plant in South Baltimore where a trash incinerator is proposed.

Photo by: Fern Shen

Opponents of the trash-burning incinerator being built near Curtis Bay are rallying there today following an announcement this week that the Maryland Department of the Environment is halting construction because the company had not purchased enough energy offsets to make up for the pollution the plant’s emissions are expected to generate.

“The failure to purchase pollution offsets calls into question the validity of the construction permit, as well as the company’s ability to comply with the Clean Air Act going forward,” said Leah Kelly of the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP), announcing a news conference this afternoon at Benjamin Franklin High School.

EIP and United Workers (through their youth-powered human rights committee, Free Your Voice) have been organizing in opposition to the Fairfield Renewable Energy Project, which they say will generate dangerous toxic emissions in an area already burdened with high levels of industrial pollutants.

The Albany, N.Y.-based company building it, Energy Answers, says the 120-megawatt plant will remain within the legal limit for emissions and free up landfill space by burning trash.

Destiny Watford, a long-time resident of Curtis Bay and member of Free Your Voice, said in a news release that the order by the state is good reason for a victory lap.

“This ruling marks one step within our larger fight for the human right to clean air and to live in a healthy community,” she said.

$8 Million Violation, Offer to Settle

First proposed in 2009, the long-delayed project began construction in August. According to MDE, Energy Answers International was required to buy credits representing more than 1,500 tons of emissions of pollutants, including nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds, as well as particulates.

But in a June 19 letter to Energy Answers, MDE said Sasol North America notified the state on June 2 that Energy Answers failed to buy about 80 tons of emissions offsets that it had said it would buy from the Houston-based chemical company.

MDE could fine Energy Answers more than $8 million for the violation – $25,000 for each day since construction began last year, letter said. MDE’s letter offers the company a chance to pursue a settlement of the violations, but opponents say they plan to argue that the construction permit is invalid.

In December, along with Unite Here Local 7, the opponents marched from Benjamin Franklin High School to the plant, described meeting door-to-door with 20 area residents and collecting nearly 2,000 signatures on a petition calling for a halt to the project.

Last month, a group of students armed with research, a video and a spirited musical performance went to a city school board meeting to protest the board’s agreement to buy power from the Fairfield plant.

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  • Matt R

    Offsetting is such bs…go plant some trees and you can dump crap into the air. I know this is going to be unpopular but Curtis Bay is and needs heavy industries that create pollution. You scare away industrial operations and Curtis Bay will die since it’s so far removed from the rest of Baltimore. If I had it my way, we would be encouraging the up-in-coming natural gas export business, major oil refining, and other major heavy industries to make up shop in Curtis Bay.

    • James Hunt

      But in a June 19 letter to Energy Answers, MDE said Sasol North America notified the state on June 2 that Energy Answers failed to buy about 80 tons of emissions offsets that it had said it would buy from the Houston-based chemical company.


      Unintentionally hilarious. Houston’s manufacturing/industrial base has grown by 20 percent over the past 10 years. We’re the rubes who are helping make it possible by purchasing their “offsets” while our industrial bases dwindles.

      • ushanellore

        But what about Houston’s cancer rate? Have you checked out the chest X Rays of the Houstonites lately? MD Anderson is strategically located to receive the ones wasted by their manufacturing/industrial base. Not that we are faring any better–we get the downwind carcinogens from the Great Lakes and that’s decimating us. Houston is Beijing on the rise–they won’t have the last laugh but your myopia won’t accommodate that.

        • James Hunt

          Huh. Looks like the air in Houston–the nation’s fourth largest city and third largest industrial center– is somewhat better than ours …

          Incidentally, w/r/t to cancer: have you controlled for obesity, alcoholism/drug use, inactivity and age? ‘Cause we got a lot that in our fair city.

          All of Maryland is downwind from the Great Lakes, but MoCo and HoCo have much, much lower cancer rates than Baltimore (140-146/100K population vs. 243/100K). So, can’t just be Chicago, Detroit, and Cleveland killing us.

          Houston’s lower, too (180), though nearby Galveston is at 222.

          Meanwhile, Beijing’s is 318 for men and 253 for women.

          So, not sure what your point is, esteemed interlocutor. Houston has better air, more people gainfully employed in well-paying blue collar jobs, and a lower cancer rate than we do. Yay?

    • ushanellore

      And you wouldn’t live there.

      • James Hunt

        Nobody _has_ to live in Curtis Bay. It can’t have escaped your notice that there’s a ton of similarly priced housing elsewhere in Baltimore. Here’s a hard reality: ever since before the residents of 1st century Jerusalem burned their trash in the Valley of Gehenna (a metaphor for hell in Jesus’s teaching) there have been parts of cities set aside for dealing with the detritus of city life. Curtis Bay has been that place since well before almost all of the people who live there now arrived there.

        • rkolberg

          Jesus: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Luke 6:31

          • James Hunt

            Yes, what we’re doing to the Chinese peasants who labor in the open pits mines (as large as the entire city of Baltimore) of Bayan Obo in order to provide lanthanum for our computers and Priuses (10 pounds per car) is not something we’d do to ourselves.

            Meanwhile, back in the US of A, the Md Department of the Environment and the PSC signed off on the Curtis Bay plant ***located in an industrially zoned area***. Governor O’Malley endorsed it, the US Gov’t buys energy from a similar plant in Aberdeen as close to housing as this one.

            Also, despite what are no doubt your most sincere efforts, you, ushanellore, and everyone who signed that petition is producing rubbish and using energy off the grid every day. The trash has to go to and the energy has to come from somewhere.

            And you’re quoting Gospel using a computer that, yes, uses rare earth elements from Bayan Obo. The chap in the natty argyle sweater (8th picture down) would like to thank you for making sure he has a job:


          • ushanellore

            Of the Bible, from the Bible and for the Bible except when when one has to live by the Bible.

      • Matt R

        Sure I wouldn’t live there because it’s an industrial area. If I were blue collar, I would want there to be plenty of industrial work in Curtis Bay (no one likes being unemployed and the service jobs that we have attracted suck) . Most of Curtis Bay is industrial (much of it is heavy industrial) and has been that way for over 100 years.
        That being said most people who live in Curtis Bay have some history that includes themselves or their family working in the industrial outfits in the area. If they go after the polluters they are biting the hand that feeds them and will give industrial operations, yet another reason to move the jobs elsewhere (like to China, Honduras, Mexico, or even a US city that complains less).

        • ushanellore

          Champion of the polluters. Reason jobs. You oppose pollution you won’t have jobs. Take it or leave it. Zero sum game for the blue collar workers. Tired old argument. Think of something new. How can we have no jobs and no pollution both? Or is that a complete no no/

          • James Hunt

            Do tell us about your pollution-free lifestyle. You’re using a computer to communicate with the rest of us yobs, no? That computer requires rare earth elements.


            Here’s one of the places they come from (shot courtesy of NASA):


            Lovely, no? Look for more of that as the race to develop batteries that can store solar and wind power for use during the night and calm days.

          • ushanellore

            We will be powering out of microgrids–the power companies are afraid. There is no pollution free lifestyle but there is and should be an aspiration for a pollution reduced lifestyle. This is not a zero sum game.

          • James Hunt

            Well, since the article deals with a waste-to-energy plant that would presumably be part of the city’s microgrid, why are you opposing it.

          • ushanellore

            There are microgrids and microgrids–this is one that comes bathed in soot and toxic gases.

          • James Hunt

            And yet the plant was approved by the Maryland Department of the Environment (the stop-work order was function of the company’s failure to ante up sufficient green indulgences) and endorsed thusly by Governor O’Malley:

            “Despite the success of recycling programs in our State, including in Harford and Montgomery counties, where existing waste-to-energy facilities coexist with robust recycling programs, the reality is that Marylanders generate tons of solid waste each and every day. If there is no waste-to-energy facility available, these tons of trash are simply dumped into landfills, no value is derived from the waste, and our State continues to rely on coal-fired generation to account for 55% of our energy needs. … Therefore, the question is not whether waste-to-energy facilities are better for the environment than coal-fired generation or better for the environment than the land filling of trash, but rather whether waste-to-energy facilities are better than the combination of coal and land filling, based on the best available science. The answer to that question is a qualified ‘yes’.”

          • Matt R

            Poverty and the ills that it brings kills more people than pollution. The jobs that these “polluters” bring takes people that are not the best educated or the most savvy and gives them and their families a chance to rise out of poverty. They may start making enough money to eventually not have to live in the industrial area which by the way has a very low population density in comparison to most Baltimore neighborhoods.

          • ushanellore

            Pollution is deliberately sent to poor neighborhoods. Rise out of poverty? You’re kidding. These folks are too debilitated by their environment to rise out of poverty. Health is wealth. Not many of these polluters hire the poor from the neighborhoods where they set up shop. That’s your imagination. They automate and bring folks from outside to do their dirty jobs. That’s why the poor are now asserting, “Take your job and shove it!”

          • Matt R

            So do you think removing all of the industrial operations from Curtis Bay with all of their pollution will help folks not to be in poverty? I’m sure the businesses servicing folks who work at those industrial operations wouldn’t agree. And I have news for you, many of those operations do, in fact, hire people locally.

          • ushanellore

            Nope–I don’t think that will help them not to be in poverty. But to have an interest in polluting less should be every industry’s goal and concern. We should invest in green technologies. That too can create jobs. This is not a zero sum game.

            The polluters won’t have many places to go before long. China and India are cracking down on polluters. Their rivers and their air are running thick with industrial toxins and the cost to their citizens and health care systems are phenomenal. Unhealthy citizens do not make a hardy labor force.

            You saw what happened in the Turkey coal mine. Massive deaths of the sort that happened there lead to political unrest and the toppling of govts. Take the long view please. The EPA is not an inconvenience. It is an essential to stop the greedy forays of industrial giants. I am sure you wouldn’t want your children breathing toxins as they are climbing out of poverty. The two are not mutually exclusive. You make it so.

  • trueheart4life

    Note to Free Your Voice: Please identify the corporations offering energy credits and if they are local consider staging a protest against them.

  • KnowNothingParty

    The manipulators of the sheeple kids have won this round. Now the sheeple kids are that much closer to a minimum wage career in fast food. Congratulations

    • James Hunt

      KNP — on the bright side, coal exports (and related jobs) out of the port o’ Balto should continue to do well. Germany — having seen the light (pun intended) after a brutally expensive investment in wind and solar — is bringing 12 new coal fired plants on line by 2020 (plus 27 gas fired). China and India are bringing 160 and 46 new plants online, respectively, in the next two years. None of those countries can source enough coal locally, and fracking for natural gas has made American coal a bargain.

    • ushanellore

      Or they will be close to a minimum wage career in trash burning-take your pick.

      • Matt R

        At least there is a machismo element in a job burning trash…or most industrial work for that matter that you will not find in fast food or most retail.

        • rkolberg

          Yeah, the Marlboro Man had the machismo (and lung cancer) thing going on too. In retrospect, masochism might be more apt.

          • ushanellore

            Two thumbs up!

  • Gerald Neily

    Brilliant Brew story! So few words cover so much.

  • DC

    Just as a side note about Houston: I can buy the house next to yours in Houston, tear it down, and build an amusement park if I like. Yay Houston! And the Governor of Texas believes homosexuality is equivalent to alcoholism. Yay Texas!

    • James Hunt

      Sure, but the air isn’t as polluted in Houston and you’re less likely to contract cancer or be diagnosed HIV (36.4/100K in MD v. 24.6 in TX) and more likely to be employed if you’re a blue collar worker.

      • ushanellore

        All booms become busts and all empires rise and fall, some faster than others. Don’t tout Houston for anything other than drought, heat, an oil bust and currently a mindless industrial boom, awaiting its quick demise.

        • James Hunt

          Yes, quite. In my lifetime, Baltimore was able to pay its own way and most of its residents could find gainful employment, whether they had a college education or not. Kind of like Houston does now.

          • ushanellore

            Transitioning to new economies is not easy. Houston is a dinosaur like most of Texas. Houston’s time will come and go fast–I expect an even shorter life span than Baltimore’s good old days. You live in nostalgia. This love for Houston–could it be that you both belong to the same era—leave the “cretinaceous” period and come to the Cretaceous please.

          • James Hunt

            Ah, yes, the fabled “new economy,” powered by the delicate burps of butterflies and the broken wind of unicorns. No need for cities to zone areas industrial, as Curtis Bay has been for decades, because there’s no need for anything as tediously bourgeois as industry. We’ll all just sit around tapping out poetry on our tablets and depending on the collective to keep us fed and shod.

          • ushanellore

            How bilious thou grows against bards. We do more than tap out poetry–perhaps we work in the old or the new economy by the day. Anyway, no one said no to industry– fulfill the green indulgences and keep moving.

          • James Hunt

            “Fulfill the green indulgences”/
            Lo, ’tis that what I hear?/
            No alms–just graft–for the litigious/
            An empty palm draws near.


            Okay, that’s bad.

            This excerpt of a poem the opening line of which is engraved on Loyola U’s science building at Charles and Cold Spring is much better.

            From 1877:

            … And for all this, nature is never spent;

            There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
            And though the last lights off the black West went
            Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
            Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
            World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
            — G.M. Hopkins

          • ushanellore

            And if we keep following your advice–yes–the last lights will indeed go off the black West–I mean the entire wastrel Western world covered with soot and dust– and the morning will be brown instead of pink or blue and the Holy Ghost will be bent brooding over an absent world wondering where it went. GMH was prescient more than you.

            Look up Potosi in Bolivia–industrialized as they come bard and it is sinking and will be gone, swallowed whole into the hole of lack of conservation, overuse of land and YES—untrammeled industrialization.

          • James Hunt

            Right, then: off your computer, righteous one. You’re making the lives of Chinese peasants miserable (or you’re making sure they have jobs). And stop generating trash and using energy while you’re at it, because “new economy.”

            Meanwhile, back in reality, let’s review the tape: site’s been zoned industrial for decades longer than pretty much everyone living nearby has been living; in fact, it’s replacing another, older factory; MDE and PSC approved the plant; Gov. O’M endorsed it; United Steelworkers endorsed it; feds buy energy from a similar plant in Aberdeen; construction was stopped due to insufficient graft, er, indulgences, er offsets. ‘Tis neither Bolivia or Bayan Obo.

          • ushanellore

            Bolivia and Bayan Obo–someone endorsed those too probably with the approval of many like you.

          • James Hunt

            Throw away your computer, stop using electricity, and don’t generate any trash if it bothers you so much. Otherwise, you’re part of the problem.

            You seem fond of Bible verses. Here’s one:

            “Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’ while the wooden beam is in your eye?You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye”.

            Matthew 7:3-5

          • ushanellore

            Extremism wins the day with you. You don’t need to throw away everything–you need to use less and conserve. You need to go partly solar and wind. You need to shower for a short time, turn off the water when it is not in use, repair leaking pipes, recycle, buy less goods, not buy any you don’t need, keep the computers you have longer, recycle the ones you don’t need, use fans and not air conditioners and use the fans less etc etc.

            Meanwhile this is about young folks in a downwardly mobile society saying that they don’t want their young, more susceptible lungs to be exposed to the toxins from that plant. They don’t care about offsets.

            Your argument is that industry won’t come to Maryland if it is under constraint–jobs ditto and young folks need jobs–but that is the kind of logic, through the years that has led to overfishing, oyster harvesting up the gazoo and so on. Jobs and more jobs in the sea food industry has led to overuse and no jobs.

            What do you want? No pollution control? No constraint on industry whatsoever? Look at the story of the Amur river–how it has been polluted by unsupervised industry. Do you think industry and the corporate sector should have no enforcement?

            I think offsets are not an effective control. They allows one company to pollute while another sells offsets to the polluter. The answer is really in tech development–how to burn with less gas release, how to contain the gas, how to control the gas released everyday and how to create less trash.

            The answer is to go green and create jobs in the green economy. This is happening in micro ways and must go macro–we can’t throw out the baby with the bathwater and there must be a blending of the old and the new to create a better economy.

            All of your arguments are moot because it is predicted we will be running out of fossil fuel in the not too far off future. If we don’t go green, conserve and reinvent the way we live we won’t live at all.

            Rabid consumerism does not help but jobs in this nation are all based on rabid consumerism. People throw away everything here. Where I once lived people still have cobblers, tailors and repairmen–they keep their goods for eternity–their fridges, their shoes, their clothes–they don’t chuck them for new ones frequently.

            They drink their tap water not bottled water–water with pseudoclaims. They don’t eat from cartons–and they keep their glass bottles and glass containers for storage.

            Remember when brainless Bush asked us after 9/11 to show our patriotism by shopping till we drop–that creates demand for goods and jobs–so shop–well, you think we can sustain that? For how long?

            We are placing our descendants in the valley of the shadow of death faster than any other generation.

          • James Hunt

            Tippy-tap-tap: out
            Pours pixels of poetry.
            Chinese peasants sigh.

          • HS

            There once was a man from Nantucket….

          • James Hunt

            … who carried whale oil in a bucket.
            He kept the town bright
            Every long dark night
            ‘Til one day he forgot where he stuck it.

          • ushanellore

            There once was a man from Nantucket,
            who carried whale oil in a bucket,
            the only town bright,
            through the long night,
            in the year 2050 was Nantucket.

          • James Hunt

            Why do you hate whales? And properly arranged limericks?

            Fun, vaguely related fact: Baltimore’s Washington Monument is mentioned in Chapter 35 of “Moby Dick”:

            ” … Great Washington, too, stands high aloft on his towering main-mast in Baltimore, and like one of Hercules’ pillars, his column marks that point of human grandeur beyond which few mortals will go. …”


          • ushanellore

            Fascinating. Baltimore seems to have crept into literature through the front or back door. Sneaky place.

            Love whales but I love tongue in cheek too.

          • ushanellore

            I reply: Tap, tap
            pour verses galore to make
            Chinese peasants high.

  • HS

    I can’t imagine what the management of Energy Answers was smoking when they decided to build their facility in Baltimore. The stream of industrial employers that have left MD should have been their first clue.

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