Financial details coming on Fiberight plan

ELLSWORTH — Hancock County communities that will decide in 2016 where to haul their trash will receive more details this month on the economic viability of an alternative disposal site.

The Municipal Review Committee, which is tasked with representing members’ interests in handling their solid waste, is supporting a new technology that would convert solid waste into biogas and possibly other products.

The new $80-million plant would be located in Hampden and would be built and operated by Maryland-based Fiberight.

Committee members represent all Hancock County municipalities other than Ellsworth, Eastbrook and Deer Isle. Member municipalities currently truck their refuse to the Penobscot Energy Recovery Center (PERC) in Orrington.

PERC burns the waste to generate electricity, which is then sold at higher-than-market rates to Emera Maine.

But the favorable cost structure instituted to encourage sustainable forms of energy will expire in 2018.

Officials in Orrington have questioned the wisdom of switching to Fiberight, saying the financial viability of the plant is uncertain.

The Municipal Review Committee said in a lengthy response to Orrington on several issues that the group will release general information on the economics of the Fiberight project before its Dec. 16 annual meeting.

“The Fiberight technology has undergone due diligence reviews by a number of third party reviewers acting on behalf of investors,” the committee said.

The Orrington officials noted that Fiberight to date has operated only a much smaller plant with the same technology in Lawrenceville, Va.

The Municipal Review Committee said in its response that the organization has a back-up plan in the event there are any issues with the Fiberight plant.

Arrangements have been made to haul PERC’s solid waste to the Crossroads Landfill in Norridgewock in the event of a problem, according to the committee.

“The economics and risk profile of the project are attractive even if the Fiberight facility does not work,” the organization stated.

According to the committee, it now has a backup disposal site — Crossroads Landfill — and it would have the potential to redevelop the Hampden site to host an alternative processing technology that might leverage the new infrastructure already in place.

The organization has budgeted $5 million to buy the land, build a road leading to the site and provide water and sewage services, the natural gas line and overhead utilities.

The organization, in its lengthy response to Orrington’s concerns, said that although the proposed Fiberight plant would be the first of its kind at its scale in the United States, similar facilities have been established in Europe, Asia and Canada.

As to the plant’s profitability, the committee said Fiberight would collect tipping fees and sales of the product it would generate.

Investors would see a return on their investment and members would receive rebates, the committee said, adding that “the details of the economic analysis of Fiberight’s profitability are proprietary and not subject to disclosure.”

Jacqueline Weaver

Jacqueline Weaver

Reporter at The Ellsworth American
Jacqueline's beat covers the eastern Hancock County towns of Lamoine through Gouldsboro as well as Steuben in Washington County. She was a reporter for the New York Times, United Press International and Reuters before moving to Maine. She also publicized medical research at Yale School of Medicine and scientific findings at Yale University for nine years.[email protected]

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