The Present Need To Support The Continued Operation Of Maine’s Waste-to-energy Facilities
Forty years ago the Maine Legislature first enacted the “Maine Hazardous Waste, Septage, and Solid Waste Management Act” Title 38, Maine Revised Statutes, Chapter 13). The declaration of policy in that Act states, in pertinent part, as follows:
“The Legislature finds and declares that it is the policy of the State to pursue and implement an integrated approach to hazardous and solid waste management, which shall be based on the following priorities: reduction of waste generated at the source, including both the amount and toxicity of waste; waste reuse; waste recycling; waste composting; waste process which reduces the volume waste needing disposal, including waste to energy technology and landfills;
The Legislature declares that it is in the public interest to aggressively promote waste reduction, reuse, and recycling as the preferred methods of waste management;
The Legislature also finds that direct State action is needed to assist municipalities in separating, collecting, recycling, and disposing of solid waste, and that sound environmental policy and economics of scale dictate a preference for public solid waste management planning and implementation on a regional and state level.”
Although Maine has achieved a present recycling rate of approximately 40%, in order to limit its reliance on landfills which the Legislature has declared the least desirable option for disposal of solid waste, it is essential that Maine support and maintain the operation of the three remaining waste-to-energy (WTE’s) facilities because of their ability to reduce the volume of solid waste which they process by approximately 90% while also generating much needed electricity.
Maine’s WTE facilities were developed and have operated effectively in Maine for over 25 years as the result of the passage of the federal Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA) in 1978. Based upon the provisions of PURPA, the Maine WTE facilities entered into Power Purchase Agreements (PPA’s) with electrical utilities for the sale of electrical power they generate as a product of their operations; however, these PPA’s have either recently expired or will soon expire resulting in a significant reduction in the revenue stream realized by WTE’s. These PPA’s have supported their operation and served to keep tipping fees they have charged at a low level that has been competitive with tipping fees charged for the deposit of solid waste in Maine landfills which have a much lower operating cost. It is, therefore, essential that the State of Maine actively participate in the development of a new progressive statutory and regulatory structure which will serve to support the continued operation of these WTE’s.