Legislation requiring Maryland to get half of its electricity from renewable sources by the year 2030 gained initial approval in the state Senate on Tuesday. The most recent version of the bill would no longer allow trash incineration to be considered a clean energy source.
Trash incineration became categorized as clean energy in 2011, thanks to legislation sponsored by then-Baltimore Del. Brian McHale. McHale’s district included the Wheelabrator incinerator in South Baltimore.
On Tuesday, Sen. Bill Ferguson, who also represents South Baltimore, said he supports changing that classification, which comes with the opportunity for state subsidies.
Incineration, he said, takes potential subsidies away from sources like wind and solar.
“That doesn’t mean I think that incineration is inherently bad,” he said. “As it stands, if we shut down the incinerator, there would be enormous problems, not only for the city but the entire Baltimore region, where 60 percent of the trash that’s burned there is from outside of the city of Baltimore.”
In an emailed statement, Jim Connolly, Vice President of Environmental, Health and Safety at Wheelabrator, defended waste-to-energy as a “sustainable and non-depletable” energy source.
“There is no need to choose between wind, solar and other renewable energy sources,” he said. “Every day, we divert waste from landfills to safely convert up to 2,250 tons of post-recycled waste from area homes and businesses into 64 (gross) megawatts of clean, renewable baseload electricity – enough to power some 40,000 Maryland homes while reducing landfilling, lowering greenhouse gas emissions and recycling roughly 12,000 tons of metals that would also otherwise be landfilled.”