Communities Stop Polluting Waste Burners, Promote Zero Waste
New U.S. Government Report Finds Incineration the Most Expensive Form of Power Generation
Contact: Monica Wilson, GAIA, 510-883-9490 ext 103
Berkeley, CA — In recent years, communities around the U.S. and Canada have succeeded in preventing an influx of new toxic pollution and climate pollution by confronting some of the world’s dirtiest corporations in their backyards. As a result, no new waste incinerator has been built in the U.S. in over a decade. Dozens of proposals to burn municipal waste, tires, and biomass have been stopped, and the world’s largest waste incinerator in Detroit was recently shut down[i]. But several communities continue to fight existing incinerators and new proposals, including Newark, New Jersey; Springfield, Massachusetts; Washington County, New York; and many others.
A new U.S. Energy Information Administration report[ii] lists incinerators as the most expensive way to create energy. At an estimated $8,232 per kilowatt, incinerators cost two times as much as coal plants and 60 percent more than nuclear energy. Incinerator operating and maintenance costs are even more staggering: ten times more than coal, and four times more than nuclear, which explains why incinerators require public subsidies and economic incentives to operate.
“This report illustrates why we simply cannot afford incineration as an energy or waste option,” stated Monica Wilson of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA). “Incinerators pose serious economic and health risks for communities, while burning precious resources and wasting jobs.”
Such high costs have placed many communities in serious financial straits. The Detroit Covanta incinerator cost local residents over a billion dollars over the last 20 years, and Pennsylvania’s state capitol, Harrisburg, is facing bankruptcy due to the costs of a Covanta waste incinerator[iii].
Due to community organizing, residents of Taunton, Massachusetts are cautiously optimistic that a proposed gasification incinerator for municipal waste will not be built. One of Taunton's citizen opposition leaders, Fire Department Captain Robert Bastis, made this statement to the media: "We can be the leader, not in gasification, but in recycling."
Public opposition has largely been fueled by community health concerns. Incinerators release cancer-causing pollutants and many are located in communities of color where residents have much higher rates of asthma and other respiratory illness than elsewhere in the nation. Recently, Covanta Energy, the world’s largest incinerator company, was sued by the Connecticut Attorney General for toxic emissions from its Wallingford facility[iv] and settled a legal challenge from the Ironbound Community Corporation of Newark, New Jersey for health impacts.
Today is the Global Day of Action against Waste and Incineration, organized by GAIA. Communities across five continents will engage in street actions, public conferences, special radio programs, and other events. The day of action coincides with the UN-sponsored talks on climate change that commenced this week in Cancun, Mexico. Incinerators are a source of climate pollution[v], and zero waste has significant climate benefits, including conserving resources, saving energy, and cutting greenhouse gas emissions. San Francisco, California provides a model with its goal of zero waste and achievement of 77 percent waste diversion that has created 1,000 local jobs.
“Incinerators produce more carbon dioxide per unit of energy than coal power plants, and landfills are one of the leading sources of methane, an even more potent greenhouse gas,” said Ananda Lee Tan of GAIA. “While we are fighting to protect the health of our own communities, we are keenly aware that these polluting industries place the entire planet in peril. Community solutions like zero waste are the best ways to cool the planet.”
For more information please see www.gaia10.org
[ii] U.S. Energy Information Administration, Updated Capital Cost Estimates for Electricity Generation Plants, November 2010: http://www.eia.gov/oiaf/beck_plantcosts/pdf/updatedplantcosts.pdf
[iii] Wall Street Journal: Harrisburg Steps Toward Bankruptcy: http://online.wsj.com/article/BT-CO-20100929-710824.html
[iv] New Jersey News: August 24, Fairfield-based Covanta Sued for pollution by Connecticut Attorney General http://www.nj.com/business/index.ssf/2010/08/fairfield-based_covanta_sued_f.html
[v] U.S. EPA energy emissions figures show that MSW incineration produces 2,988 lbs/MWh of carbon dioxide compared to coal at 2, 249 lbs/MWh: http://www.epa.gov/cleanenergy/energy-and-you/affect/air-emissions.html