There is a Public Hearing Thursday, January 9th, starting at 1pm on LD1483.
LD 1483, “An Act To Promote and Enhance State Policy To Preserve and Support Existing Methods of Disposal of Municipal Solid Waste” is sponsored by Senator CAIN of Penobscot and cosponsored By: Representative CAMPBELL of Orrington; Speaker EVES of North Berwick; Senator GRATWICK of Penobscot and Representative STANLEY of Medway
There will be at least 2 work sessions, most likely on Monday, January 13, 1pm, and Tuesday, Jan 14, 1pm.
The hearing and work sessions will take place in Room 216 of the Cross State Office Building.
Audio of the hearing is streamed live at: http://www.maine.gov/legis/audio/natural_res_cmte.html
Testimony can be emailed to ENR Committee Clerk Jacob Stern at: Jacob.firstname.lastname@example.org
The content of the bill is expected to change significantly from it’s current form (text at: http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/bills/bills_126th/billtexts/SP054501.asp), which was held over from last legislative session.
When the bill was being heard in spring 2013, it resulted in one of the most highly funded lobbying efforts by any industry in Maine during 2013.
The push for this legislation has come from the owners of municipal solid waste to energy incinerators in Maine, which are facing a major loss of federal funding.
The 1978 Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA) guaranteed a market for electricity produced by waste-to-energy incinerators. PURPA funding for Maine incinerators is expiring between 2014 and 2019.
Without the federal subsidy, incinerator operators are unable to offer competitive prices for municipal waste contracts compared with what landfill operators like Casella can offer.
This bill is undergoing major changes, all of which would appear to come at an increased cost to Maine towns, taxpayers, and residential ratepayers. Among the suggestions from the ENR Committee on how to solve this problem has been to stop providing a bottle return, and use the bottle deposit money to keep the incinerators financially viable.
It is important that the ENR committee and sponsors of this bill hear from their constituents and not just Casella and Waste Management.
Contact information for ENR Committee members can be found at: https://dontwasteme.wordpress.com/contact-members-of-the-committee-on-environment-natural-resources/
Background on the Financial Incentive to Dump Waste in Maine Landfills
A major reason that landfill companies can offer a lower disposal rate is that electricity produced by landfill gas (LFG) in Maine qualifies for Class I Renewable Energy Credits (RECs).
Electricity produced by waste-to-energy(WTE) incinerators is only eligible for Class 2 RECs.
The trading value of Class I RECs can be greater than 60 times the value of Class II RECs.
As of December 2011, the traded value for Maine Class I RECs was $13/MWh.
Maine Class II RECs traded at less than 20 cents a MWh in 2010.
(Source: MPUC RPS Report 2011 – Review of RPS Requirements and Compliance in Maine
January 30, 2012, http://www.maine.gov/tools/whatsnew/attach.php?id=349454&an=1)
Funding for RECs comes from Maine ratepayers, as an add-on to residential electric bills.
This ratepayer subsidy to landfill operators creates an artificial market incentive to import waste long distances and dump it in Maine landfills, especially if the material is a major gas-producing waste.
The Class I REC subsidy allows landfill operators to create larger economies of scale, buying out competitors, and controlling the flow of materials to the sites that generate the greatest profit for the company.
Prior to 2007, landfill gas only qualified for Class II RECs, and in most other states it is still a Class II form of energy generation. A return to that status would level the playing field with incinerator operators in Maine.
If landfill operators did not receive high-value Class I REC subsidies, there would by less incentive to offer artificially low tipping fees for the disposal of out-of-state waste in Maine dumps.
If electricity produced from waste dumps and WTE incinerators received equal value, incinerator operators would not so urgently need a new subsidy (paid for by Maine taxpayers and ratepayers) to compete with landfill operators and maintain the Maine waste hierarchy which places landfilling as the last choice option for dealing with materials disposal.