January 2, 2018

Out-of-state partnership chosen to redevelop Hartford waste facility

Contributed rendering
Contributed rendering
A rendering from Sacyr Rooney's redevelopment proposal for the Mid-Connecticut plant in Hartford.
Contributed photo
An aerial shot of the Mid-Connecticut plant

State energy officials have selected a $229 million proposal from two major construction firms to redevelop Hartford's trash-to-energy plant, which processes about one-third of Connecticut's garbage, generating enough electricity to power 35,000 homes a year.

A proposal from a partnership called the Sacyr Rooney Development Team -- made up of Spain-based Sacyr and New York-based Manhattan Construction Group (owned by Florida-based Rooney Holdings) -- bested two other bidders, Covanta and Mustang Renewable Power Ventures, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection announced Tuesday.

Sacyr Rooney's plan includes refurbishing the Mid-Connecticut Plant's existing resource recovery facility, extracting recyclables from solid waste through new sorting processes and extracting organic materials to send to anaerobic digesters.

The project would also include upgrading the plant's recycling facility to add an advanced glass recovery system or mixed-waste processing facility.

Its plan would use most of the existing site, which has some space allotted for potential industrial use.

The aging trash-to-energy plant is currently operated by the quasi-public Materials Innovation and Recycling Authority (MIRA), formerly called the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority.

"The facility's aging equipment is prone to unplanned outages and MIRA had warned state officials that it would be unable to bear the cost of needed upgrades," DEEP Commissioner Robert Klee said in a statement Tuesday. "The Sacyr Rooney concept has the potential to provide significant environmental and economic benefits to the State, as well as significant improvements in host community impacts compared with the present state."

Sacyr Rooney has said the plant will be able to recover more materials from the waste stream, ultimately cutting in half the amount of waste burned at the plant -- incineration that results in air pollution.

Crucial for municipalities that contract with the plant is the fact that DEEP projects the redevelopment will keep tipping fees stable, even lowering them for some customers.

There will be negotiations between the company, MIRA and Hartford that aim to reach a final development deal by this summer.

"If an agreement cannot be reached, DEEP has reserved the right to invite another proposer, Mustang Renewable Power Ventures, to enter into talks with MIRA," DEEP said.

Mustang's proposal ran into a hitch, reported by the Hartford Courant last week, when a New York facility that was to accept trash hauled from Hartford said it had not agreed to any deal with Mustang.

Hartford concerns

One thing that the Sacyr Rooney project would ensure is that trash would continue to be burned in Hartford.

Several Hartford city councilors spoke against incineration at a hearing last month, arguing that the Mid-Connecticut plant results in added public safety costs to Hartford and health problems for its residents.

DEEP asked that bidders work in a $4 million annual host payment for Hartford into their financing scheme.

Mayor Luke Bronin said Tuesday that he was disappointed with DEEP's selection, saying he wanted the plant to move away from a model largely based on burning garbage

"The processing and incineration of trash cannot possibly be the highest and best use for approximately one hundred acres of riverfront land, strategically located at the intersection of two major highways," Bronin said. "If this selection stands, we will negotiate aggressively to protect the interests of the City of Hartford and its residents, including public health and environmental protections, a much higher PILOT payment, firm job commitments for Hartford residents, and other community benefits."

There is a long process ahead, DEEP said. Assuming a contract is reached this year, there would be three years of planning, permitting, and construction before the new facility is fully online.

"DEEP has established a process to ensure Hartford has a seat at the table for negotiations on moving the project forward," the agency said.

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