Dog Bites Man, Monday Edition: Massachusetts Retains Its Municipal Waste Combustor Moratorium

As most of my Massachusetts readers know, on Friday, Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Ian Bowles and DEP Commissioner Laurie Burt announced that Massachusetts would retain its moratorium on new construction or expansion of municipal waste combustors. Although the overall outcome is not really a surprise from this administration, a few points are worth noting.

The announcement says nothing about new technologies, such as plasma arc gasification. Arguably, such a technology is not “incineration” or “combustion,” so we’ll have to see whether the administration remains open to such alternatives to traditional incineration.

The administration emphasized that it is committed to decreasing the volume of the waste stream and noted some specific initiatives that it intends to pursue:

Comprehensive producer responsibility legislation for discarded electronics – The announcement did not refer to any specific legislation (see here for a helpful table summarizing the current state of e-waste legislation nationwide, including in MA), but the administration is clearly going to be pushing for some kind of E-waste bill.

Expansion of the bottle bill to cover water and sports drinks. Since I have joined those who consider bottled water use a pet peeve, I can’t complain about this one.

Finally, the Secretary stated that he had directed DEP to cease permitting any use of construction and demolition, or C&D, waste as fuel in any energy facility until a comprehensive review can be completed.  The announcement specifically called out the Palmer Renewable Energy facility as being affected by the halt.

It is clear that the current economy is not discouraging the Patrick administration from its aggressive environmental agenda.

3 thoughts on “Dog Bites Man, Monday Edition: Massachusetts Retains Its Municipal Waste Combustor Moratorium

  1. So, are we to assume the DEP assessment will include a rigorous comparison between the environmental and cost impacts of energy production by combustion of C&D waste vs. the cumulative environmental and cost impacts of sending that waste to another endpoint along with alternative means of supply and generation of the same amount of energy?

  2. 1. In a pre-release call to the MassDEP Solid Waste Advisory Bill Mass officials specified that the moratorium DOES include gasification technologies in keeping with the EPA recognition that they are incineration.
    2. The Administration refers to two bills (the expanded bottle bill and an
    ewaste bill) that have already been filed and had hearings.
    3. The C&D “halt” is a suspension pending a study. In any case one hopes that the Commonwealth will get serious about deconstruction instead of demolition.

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