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July 15, 2020

Lamont won’t back $330M trash plant subsidy

Photo | Pablo Robles MIRA's Thomas Gaffey reviews a bale of recyclables at the quasi-public agency's single-stream facility in Hartford.

Gov. Ned Lamont has made it crystal clear that $330 million in taxpayer funds won’t be forthcoming to help finance an overhaul of the state’s largest waste incinerator.

Unable to garner needed commitments from municipalities that use the Mid-Connecticut plant, the Materials Innovation and Recycling Authority (MIRA) voted in late May to end its effort to negotiate a redevelopment agreement with a private operator unless the state made a financial commitment by August, warning that it would have to ship trash to out-of-state landfills.

In a statement Tuesday, Lamont rejected the $330 million needed capital investment as well as shifting the state’s waste management strategy to exporting. 

“I cannot support sending hundreds of millions of state taxpayer or electric ratepayer dollars to MIRA to attempt to keep a failing decades-old facility running, right here in Hartford where it impacts our vulnerable residents,” Lamont said. “A permanent trash export operation is also a nonstarter.  It’s time for new ideas.”

Contributed photo
MIRA's trash-to-energy plant on the Connecticut River in Hartford's South Meadows.

Katie Dykes, commissioner of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, wrote to MIRA’s board on Tuesday, rejecting an alternative plan to transform the plant into a massive transfer station for shipping waste out of state. 

“This alternative is inconsistent with MIRA’s statutory requirements,” Dykes wrote. “It is unclear whether DEEP will be able to issue the necessary permits without statutory changes authorizing MIRA to conduct activities that are contrary to the [state materials management strategy.]”

Dykes asked MIRA to draft, by Sept. 15, an operating plan that considers alternative mechanisms for keeping the state’s waste management system self-sufficient, with predictable costs.

Dykes said that might include unit-based pricing for solid waste disposal, greater promotion of recycling and separation of food waste for composting.

Dykes also wrote that such a plan could “arguably conform” with the state’s current waste strategy “by providing for transfer of [waste] on a time- or quantity-limited basis” so long as it was coupled with other innovative or environmentally friendly measures.

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