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Curtis Bay Incinerator

Environmentby Fern Shen11:40 amJun 26, 20140

South Baltimore incinerator opponents applaud stop-work order

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

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

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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