Construction is underway for the Fiberight trash-to-biogas plant in Hampden. The Municipal Review Committee consortium of towns announced a settlement of its lawsuit against PERC, the company currently handling trash from member towns. PHOTO COURTESY OF JESSAMINE POTTLE

Trash war is settled



ELLSWORTH — Two embattled interests that fought throughout most of 2016 for the right to handle communities’ solid waste have officially made peace.

The Municipal Review Committee (MRC) and the Penobscot Energy Recovery Co. (PERC) in Orrington have withdrawn their lawsuits against each other.

They also reached an agreement that clarifies how they will bring their business relationship to an end by April 1, 2018.

The MRC Board approved the agreement at its annual meeting Dec. 14.

At issue was whether PERC could remain financially viable once the higher-than-market rates it was receiving for the electricity it generates expire.

PERC maintained it could still make money at a reduced capacity and with lower rates for the power it generates.

The MRC, which represents 187 towns and cities, insisted PERC could not and began looking for a new waste disposal arrangement for its members.

The MRC Board opted to partner with a new entity, Fiberight LLC, which is building a new trash-to-natural gas plant in Hampden.

Many of MRC’s more than 100 members are joining in the new operation, which is scheduled to open in April 2018.

“We’ve settled the litigation,” Chip Reeves, Bar Harbor’s Public Works director and MRC board chair, told the Bar Harbor Town Council earlier this year. “We had filed suit against our partners for spending money on lobbying efforts to promote legislation that would have subsidized power for the project. We were told the partnership wouldn’t be charged for that, and we did get charged, and it was one of the most expensive lobbying efforts in the history of the legislature. So it was good news that we could settle it.”

Greg Lounder, executive director of the MRC, said the settlement with PERC was fair.

“This agreement allows both parties to move forward with their respective plans to provide service post-2018 while providing predictability as the parties wind up their existing business relationship at the end of March 2018,” Lounder said.

Liz Graves contributed reporting to this story.

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