ELLSWORTH — Board members on the Municipal Review Committee (MRC) have approved a plan to send some municipal waste to the Penobscot Energy Recovery Co. (PERC) plant in Orrington during an interim period before MRC begins a new contract with Fiberight in Hampden later this year.
The decision came during a regular meeting of MRC’s Board of Directors on Jan. 31 in Orono.
According to Greg Lounder, executive director of the MRC, member municipalities can either take their waste to PERC or to Crossroads Landfill in Norridgewock, which had been identified in Fiberight plans as the primary backup facility in case of construction delays.
MRC is an Ellsworth-based nonprofit made up of member municipalities from across the state that will be disposing waste at the new Fiberight facility once it opens. Craig Stuart-Paul, CEO of Maryland-based Fiberight, previously told The American he expects the Hampden facility to be open in July.
MRC currently hauls trash to PERC, which it has done for 30 years. The contract ends April 1. PERC and Fiberight are both plants that convert waste into energy.
The main benefit for MRC members that take trash to PERC during the interim period, Lounder said, relates to transportation costs. Some municipalities that are close to PERC have never needed to build complex infrastructure for long-haul waste services. It would have been difficult for those towns to send waste to Norridgewock, which is farther away.
Municipalities that continue to use PERC during the interim period will pay about $90 per ton.
“In my mind, to be able to manage the material locally rather than having to incur the extra transportation costs amounts to a significant savings for communities,” Lounder said.
MRC has freed up $1 million for extra transportation costs during the interim period. It will be approaching all of its member municipalities to confirm which facility each would like to use.
Under the current agreement with PERC, MRC members have an equity stake in that facility. The contract with Fiberight will be structured differently. MRC, and its member communities, will be the landlord at the Hampden facility, and Fiberight the tenant.
Fiberight will pay MRC $125,000 quarterly, according to Lounder, and there won’t be any ownership in the operation. But both in the current PERC deal and the upcoming Fiberight deal, MRC towns will have a revenue-sharing agreement.
After the agreements are factored in, Lounder said as of this last quarter with PERC, MRC communities are paying about $67 per ton to dispose of waste. For at least the first three years of their deal with Fiberight, MRC communities will be paying $65 per ton.