The Pennsylvania Waste Industries Association (PWIA) is accusing Delta Thermo Energy (DTE) of making false claims at a public meeting in late October. The meeting was hosted by the PA Department of Environmental Protection, the agency considering air pollution and waste management permit applications submitted by Delta Thermo Energy (DTE) in the past year.
As comment deadlines on these permit applications have recently expired, these latest comments debunk not only claims made to the public, but claims used to persuade the city to sign the 35-year contract they inked in March 2012.
Their comments open by accusing DTE of making false marketing claims, in violation of the Federal Trade Commission Act.
PWIA says that DTE’s representatives falsely exaggerated the cost of landfills to scare the city into signing a long-term contract. Landfilling in the Lehigh Valley costs about $60/ton, and Easton just signed a 7-year contract for $40.44/ton, yet Delta Thermo claims that landfills cost $90.48/ton and will increase 7% per year. Actual landfill costs in the state have stayed stable in the past decade.
Of the three landfills in the Lehigh Valley (all in Northampton County), two are having expansions approved, and have so much capacity that they are being filled with large amounts of waste from New York and New Jersey.
PWIA alleges that Delta Thermo also lied when claiming that high landfill costs are bankrupting Pennsylvania municipalities. In fact, the only municipality in PA facing bankruptcy related to waste facilities is Harrisburg, which is due to their incinerator, thanks largely to bonds that were entered into to rebuild the incinerator out of similar (unfounded) fears that landfill prices would skyrocket. Mike Ewall of Energy Justice Network, and attorney for Allentown Residents for Clean Air, warned the Harrisburg City Council in 2003 that the landfill cost scare was false and that the city faced bankruptcy if they went through with the incinerator deal. The city sought bankruptcy protection in 2011.
PWIA also argues that DTE’s statements are false when they say that their project will only handle Allentown waste, pointing to their contract with the city and area universities, which rely on waste from outside of Allentown.
They also point out misleading comparisons of DTE’s allowable pollution levels to coal power plants and to another trash incinerator in the state. The comments point out that DTE would be allowed to release 20% more toxic lead pollution into the air than the trash incinerator in Montgomery County, PA — and that their pollution levels will be higher in general, since DTE will need to burn twice as much waste to make the same amount of energy.
Similar to comments made by the Allentown Residents for Clean Air, PWIA points out the lack of Continuous Emission Monitors required in the air pollution permit. While DTE presented as if they plan to use continuous monitoring, the proposed permit does not require it, even though regulations say it should. PWIA calls DTE’s approach to this issue “troubling” and says that it implies “much wider concerns regarding the validity of Delta Thermo’s applications, submissions, and other statements regarding this project.”
DTE claims that their waste products (ash and liquid wastes) will be marketable as useful products, even “liquid fertilizer,” yet there is no market for what PWIA calls an “essentially valueless product that is oversupplied” (the ash) and the liquids have never been approved for such use. Incinerator ash must be landfilled, as efforts to market it for other purposes have failed, as was found in York County when a company stockpiled incinerator ash in a quarry hoping to market it, but was fought by neighbors who objected to the piled ash blowing into their community.
DTE claims their technology has been used in commercial operation for 6-7 years, but their proposed technologies were never used together before at all. DTE’s own filings show that their plan is experimental and has not been done before anywhere in the world. As has been found with other new types of incinerators, the combustion technology can work on homogenous wastes, but tends to fail when used for more complicated waste streams, like Delta Thermo’s proposed mixture of trash and sewage sludge. PWIA points out that DTE’s proposed combustion chamber has never been used for this type of waste before.
Most disturbingly, PWIA noticed that DTE presented an “adulterated” map of where their air pollution would go. In an otherwise identical map filed with the Department of Environmental Protection, DTE showed an exposed area twice as large as what they presented to the public at the public meeting, apparently concealing the extent of the impacts to Allentown residents.
PWIA’s comments conclude that “this is nothing more than a waste combustion facility despite Delta Thermo’s strained arguments to the contrary.”
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