By Jim Schatz
Not too long ago you were burdened with the story of the rift between the Municipal Review Committee Inc. (MRC) and the Penobscot Energy Recovery Co. (PERC). These two entities worked together for 20 years to provide a destination for municipal waste that would incinerate the waste through a process that would create electricity. As the relationship reached the end of its 20-year marriage, the two parties could not come to terms as to how to approach their joint futures. Short story: They had a divorce. There was a fight for the custody of the “children.” The children were the municipalities represented by MRC during the PERC/MRC “Golden Years.” Toward the end of the relationship, MRC started dating Fiberight. Fiberight seemed to possess an attractive, innovative new technology for the processing of waste that would create usable products. After a brief, intense courtship, they (MRC and Fiberight) were united. At that point, the custody battle intensified. That conflict resulted in the majority of towns going with MRC and a smaller number staying with PERC.
Alas, April 1, 2018, has arrived. This was the date that the MRC/Fiberight couple led the public to believe they would begin living in their plant and start serving the communities they acquired during the custody battle. Unfortunately, the plant is not ready and may not be operational for six months or more. What to do? Shortly after the divorce, MRC entered into an agreement with Waste Management Services of Maine that would obligate all MRC member towns to take their trash to the Crossroads Landfill in Norridgewock (Somerset County) if the plant could not open by April 1, 2018. Towns were led to believe that any delay after April 1 would be measured in weeks, not months or longer.
MRC did enter into a last-minute discussion with DEP, Fiberight, Waste Management Disposal of Maine and Casella that would allow us to continue sending our trash to PERC. In fact, it is known that PERC was an option until 2:30 p.m. March 27, when the PERC option was taken off the table.
Our Transfer Station Board felt that the lengthy delay and the extended period of landfilling constitutes a breach of our understanding with MRC/Fiberight. Further, we have just spent thousands of taxpayer dollars to close our landfill and cannot, in good conscience, send an estimated 2,000 tons of our waste to a landfill because of an MRC/DEP decision. In addition, we estimate that close to 100,000 tons will be taken to landfills during the next six months by other towns following MRC’s directive. It is difficult to be put into a position where one must choose between the interests of our constituents and a flawed plan that was sold to us over two years ago.
For now, we have decided to continue to send our waste to PERC. The extended use of a landfill was never seen as an acceptable or required part of our original agreement.
The moral of the story
Rarely is there an outright winner at the end of a war, particularly when the spoils are actually spoils.
Blue Hill Selectman Jim Schatz is a member of the Blue Hill/Surry Transfer Station Committee.