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Business and Economy

Waste-to-Energy Company Files Suit to Revoke Proposed Competitor’s Permits

A summerlong public relations battle between two competing trash-to-energy companies is heading to court.

Maryland-based Fiberight and its Ellsworth partner, the Municipal Review Committee, or MRC, want to build a biogas, organic trash disposal facility in Hampden. But on Friday, the Penobscot Energy Recovery Company, or PERC, filed an appeal in Kennebec County Superior Court, challenging the validity of the state permits issued for the project by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

In a prepared statement, PERC spokesperson Ted O’Meara said the state’s solid waste and air emission licenses to the proposed Hampden project had moved forward “despite serious deficiencies in the record and in contravention of existing statutory and regulatory requirements.”

O’Meara said PERC and its majority owner and managing general partner, USA Energy Group, along with Exeter Agri-Energy, filed suit to reverse the DEP’s decision and deny the permits.

“The same standard should apply to all applicants to submit complete information at the time of filing, and the MDEP should take whatever time is necessary to ensure that all environmental concerns are addressed,” said Robert Knudsen, vice president of USA Energy. “The MDEP made its decision without the benefit of a public hearing and relied too heavily on inconsistent and incomplete information from the applicants. Maine people who care about the environment should be deeply concerned, as should those communities that have committed to send their trash to Fiberight after 2018.”

In addition to rejecting multiple requests for public hearings on the permit applications, Knudsen said the DEP should have held the MRC and Fiberight accountable for more complete information, and should not have overlooked serious concerns expressed by seven members of the Legislature’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee about the project’s compliance with Maine’s solid waste management hierarchy.

The DEP is now required to respond to the PERC appeal within the next 40 days.

Greg Lounder, executive director of the MRC, told the Kennebec Journal that PERC’s appeal came as no surprise and that he didn’t expect the court filing to impede the progress of the Fiberight plant, which has received the approval of the Hampden Town Council and planning board.

More than 100 of the 187 communities that now take their trash to PERC have signed contracts with Fiberight, which plans to have its facility up and running within two years.