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Another Victory for Mike Ewall, '11 and the Energy Justice Network

Friday, March 29, 2019   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Joe Libertelli
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Energy Justice Network LogoCongratulations to Mike Ewall, '11, and the Energy Justice Network (EJN) who, after helping to create and inform citizen coalitions, passed local laws that will shut down major air pollution sources in Baltimore, Maryland and, last night, in the Town of Coeymans, New York!

What follows is excerpted from EJN's press release:

 

This month, we succeeded at passing our first local laws to tackle existing facilities -- three major air polluters in Baltimore, Maryland and the Town of Coeymans, New York.

Previously, we've used local ordinances to stop a multi-state nuclear waste dump, three crematoria, a plant to make trash and sewage sludge into burnable fuel to market to coal plants in three states, and a hazardous waste incinerator. All of these were proposed facilities in Pennsylvania.

Now, we've turned a corner and have passed two laws targeting three existing polluters, limiting what one can burn, and forcing two others to close down.

Previously, we've used local ordinances to stop a multi-state nuclear waste dump, three crematoria, a plant to make trash and sewage sludge into burnable fuel to market to coal plants in three states, and a hazardous waste incinerator. All of these were proposed facilities in Pennsylvania.

Now, we've turned a corner and have passed two laws targeting three existing polluters, limiting what one can burn, and forcing two others to close down.

Stopped the world's largest cement corporation from burning trash or tires

Last night, the Town of Coeymans near Albany, NY passed a Clean Air Law, shutting down plans by the world's largest cement corporation to burn tires at a giant cement kiln across the street from a high school. We first got involved in late 2017 when our member group in Connecticut asked for help as the state was looking to replace the decrepit trash incinerator in Hartford. One of the three options they examined was to ship waste from over 50 towns to be burned in the LafargeHolcim cement kiln in Coeymans. Over the holidays, we alerted the village, town and county officials. With support from local activists, all three local governments went on record opposing the plan, the company insisted they'd never burn trash, and the proposal fell apart. Thankfully, so did the other two "keep burning" schemes and the incinerator itself, which had to have major repairs recently.

It then came to light that the cement plant was far more interested in burning tires. The Town of Coeymans hired us to draft a local Clean Air Law which bans large-scale burning of any sort of "biomass" or waste. After a hearing and months of deliberation, many local groups and activists plus two other local governments have come out in favor of the Clean Air Law. LafargeHolcim has turned people out to meetings, put out ads, and now is running a slate of candidates to take over the town in this year's elections. We'll be working with the Town on a local Clean Elections Law to make sure that it's not as easy for a polluter to buy new political leaders. There's also some interest among the county legislature to back this up with a county Clean Air Law.

Baltimore Clean Air Act to force closure of two major waste incinerators

Earlier this month, Baltimore's Mayor signed the Baltimore Clean Air Act, which we wrote and got passed unanimously through city council in February. The new law is expected to force the closure of two major waste incinerators in the city, since they can't afford to meet the strict requirements. One is the city's largest air polluter, the 2,250 ton/day Wheelabrator Baltimore trash incinerator, which we've been fighting to close for several years. The law also affects the nation's largest medical waste incinerator, Curtis Bay Medical Waste Services, which accepts medical waste from about 20 states plus Canada.

The battle was epic, with a city council hearing packed by the affected companies and affected residents. Wheelabrator put out a massive PR blitz, including a full page ad, a new website stating that "the Clean Air Act is not a solution," and with as many as six mailers to city residents urging them to contact city council to stop the bill. Thankfully, Baltimore City Council saw through this and even called out how Wheelabrator violated the city's lobbying disclosure laws.

What are the alternatives?

In the past few decades, all but about 20 of 6,200 medical waste incinerators closed and were replaced with safer, non-burn alternatives. In fact, two commercial medical waste autoclaves in Baltimore have enough unused capacity to completely replace the medical waste incinerator.

Alternatives to the trash incinerator also exist, as the city has its own landfill that has been filling up with incinerator ash. Incinerators are far more polluting than landfills, and just make landfills more toxic with their ash. The expected incinerator closure is creating new political opportunities to get serious about Zero Waste. While we've helped pass multiple unanimous city council resolutions on Zero Waste in the past two years, we're still battling with the city's pro-incinerator Department of Public Works and a regional waste authority to beat back their fetish with waste burning and get them to take our Zero Waste program recommendations seriously. We're advocating policies for a Just Transition to Zero Waste alternatives that produce 5-10 times as many jobs as burning or burying waste.

A major thank you to the 36 other groups who supported our work in the Clean Air Baltimore Coalition, especially the Teamsters Joint Council, Sierra Club's Greater Baltimore Group, the Maryland Public Health Association, and so many others who testified in support. And special thanks to Patrick Moulds, James Alston, and to Baltimore Councilman Reisinger who led the charge in city council to move this bill to the finish line. Both incinerators and the landfill are in Reisinger's district.

Can this be done in your community?

This work is inspiring other communities from Pennsylvania to California, and we look forward to hearing from any of you who'd like to work with us to stop polluters in your community as well. Also, keep an eye out for an announcement of some conference call trainings we'll be doing for Energy Justice Network members.


Please support us if you can... energyjustice.net/donate

Sincerely,

Mike, Traci, Aaron, Dante, Ava, & Andrew
The Energy Justice Network Team

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Energy Justice Network
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Philadelphia, PA 19149
215-436-9511
www.EnergyJustice.net


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