Sun Paper Urges Veto of Waste-to-Energy Bill

Following each legislative session, there ensues some debate over legislation where the Governor may choose to intervene and issue a veto, rather than sign the bill into law. This year, it appears the highest profile case of this policy debate is on the waste-to-energy legislation, SB 690. MACo supported this bill (read MACo’s testimony here) and has advocated for its passage. Numerous environmental groups have opposed the bill, and are making their case to the Governor for a veto.

Today, the Baltimore Sun’s editorial board entered the fray, with its own view: “O’Malley should trash the waste-to-energy bill.”

Part of the policy debate is framed in this section of the opinion piece:

Proponents of the bill argue that increasing the amount of energy produced by incineration would have a net benefit for the environment in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants. Although burning trash does release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, it prevents the release of methane from landfills, and methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas. It also replaces the need to generate electricity from coal or natural gas-fired power plants and extends the life of landfills. Maryland now gets about 2 percent of its electricity from waste-to-energy facilities and diverts about 17 percent of its trash to incinerators.

Environmental groups say we should not be increasing incentives for incineration, which — as they quite correctly point out — is not as clean as true renewables such as wind and solar power. Much of the trash that would be burned could instead be recycled or composted, and the problem of methane emissions from landfills is greatly mitigated by the use of modern landfilling techniques. Moreover, incineration produces other pollutants, the toxic effects of which are unclear.

Michael Sanderson

Executive Director Maryland Association of Counties

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