‘Trashanol’ contracts drafted

MOUNT DESERT — Draft agreements for disposal of municipal solid waste once contracts with the Penobscot Energy Recovery Corporation (PERC) end in 2018 are being pored over by selectmen here.

At the Board of Selectmen’s regular meeting in Northeast Harbor on Monday, Public Works Director Tony Smith presented a quick overview of the details of the 125-page document.

Mount Desert is one of more than 180 towns in Maine that have formed a Municipal Review Committee (MRC) to facilitate the construction of a trash-to-biofuel facility near Dysart’s Truck Stop in Hampden. While the consortium would do site work and install utilities, a company named Fiberight would build and operate the plant. It would “digest” trash to create methane that could be sold to Bangor Gas for distribution in its network, as well as ethanol that can be used as a motor fuel.

“The MRC would be the landlord and Fiberight would be the tenant,” Smith explained.

Member towns’ trash would be hauled there once the PERC plant in Orrington, which burns trash to generate electricity, closes. Because favorable electricity purchasing deals end in 2018, officials do not believe the PERC plant will remain economically viable. Costs in 2018 will jump $40 or more per ton from an average of $77 per ton now, officials predict.

Member towns would be responsible for sending 110,000 tons of trash to the Fiberight plant annually. Although many towns have recycling programs, the facility also would sort out recyclable materials such as metal, plastic and glass.

On Monday, Smith explained that the disposal costs to member towns should be in the $70 per ton range. The town would continue to contract with EMR of Southwest Harbor for hauling garbage to Hampden at an additional cost.

Currently there are three private investors considering loaning the entire $80 to $100 million cost of constructing the plant. “Any one of them could do it independently, or they may do it in combination,” Smith told selectmen.

Fiberight, which has several large facilities in Europe, has only one small demonstration plant running in the United States. According to Smith, it is proven technology. The MRC contracted with pulp and paper and chemical engineers at the University of Maine to vet the technology. “They did a peer review of the science and are satisfied it will work,” Smith said. He added that the availability of paper mill engineers and chemists is one of the reasons Fiberight is eager to build a plant in Maine.

In order to be up and running by April of 2018, the deadline for initial contracts and other legal documents is next month, Smith noted.

Officials with the MRC hope to have contracts completed by spring. “We hope to have everyone signed on and enough tonnage by June,” Smith said. The MRC is working with area towns to draft wording for the necessary town meeting warrant articles.

Other MRC member towns around Mount Desert Island include Bar Harbor, Southwest Harbor, Tremont, Trenton, Swans Island, Cranberry Isles and Lamoine.

Selectmen agreed to go over the contracts and discuss the deal again at its meeting on Nov. 16 in Northeast Harbor.

Earl Brechlin

Earl Brechlin

Editor at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander editor Earl Brechlin first discovered Mount Desert Island 35 years ago and never left. The author of seven guide and casual history books, he is a Registered Maine Guide and has served as president of the Maine and New England Press Associations. He and his wife live in Bar Harbor.
Earl Brechlin

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