ELLSWORTH — The Municipal Review Committee (MRC), contracted to handle the trash of 115 member communities, is getting frustrated over its longstanding effort to reopen the Hampden waste-to-biofuel plant that has been shuttered since 2019.
At that time the plant was placed into receivership, a court-ordered process that gives bondholders authority over financial decisions, in an effort to avoid bankruptcy.
MRC board members said on Jan. 25 that the bondholder trustee is holding up sale of the plant, forcing the board to “put all options on the table,” President Karen Fussell said.
“Given the disappointing interactions we had with private partners … the MRC could do well to take a more direct role in the future of this plant,” Fussell said. “It certainly is a departure from our original vision of the structure of MRC’s relationship with the plant.”
The plant was constructed and owned by Coastal Resources of Maine (CRM), while the land it was built on and infrastructure such as water, electricity and sewer were paid for by the MRC. But when Coastal Resources failed to secure over $14 million needed in continued investments, the plant shut down.
The MRC thought it had a buyer in Pennsylvania-based Delta Thermo Energy, but the deal fell through last year after owner Rob Van Naarden failed to provide adequate financial assurances.
“We have no interest in having any other dealings with them, unless they want to pay us the money they promised to pay,” Fussell said.
But after reopening the sale to prospective bidders late in 2021 and several buyers showing interest, nothing more has happened.
“We are concerned that the current prospective buyers have moved on in part due to lack of response” from the bondholders and their trustee, Fussell said.
She said the board plans to expand the reopening discussion “to Augusta,” talk to lending groups and even entertain the MRC running the plant.
“We know we have the wherewithal,” Fussell said. “[Executive Director] Mike [Carroll] has the skills to know what needs to be done with that plant … We’re thinking about what that might mean.”
Since the plant closed down, over 107,000 tons of member waste have gone to the Penobscot Energy Recovery Co. (PERC) plant in Orrington and the Juniper Ridge landfill each year.
“This plant really is the future for waste processing in this region,” Fussell said. “To lose this opportunity would be a significant blow to waste management for this region of the state.”
PERC can only take in so much waste, she noted. And the Hampden facility, if back online, would help the state meet recycling goals as well as help create an alternate energy source from waste.
In other business, board elections held Jan. 25 retained Fussell as president, Tony Smith as vice president and Sophie Wilson as treasurer.