A plan to sell the Maine Energy Recovery Co. trash incinerator in Biddeford to the city has hit a snag. The Senate yesterday stalled a bill that would have transferred ownership of the state-owned Juniper Ridge Landfill in Old Town to Casella Waste Systems, MERC's owner. The transfer was part of Casella's plan to send Biddeford's solid waste to Old Town.
Last week, Vermont-based Casella Waste Systems announced it was in talks with Biddeford officials to sell MERC to the city. The company operates the state-owned Old Town landfill and was seeking ownership of the facility. The Senate, however, voted yesterday not to send the bill to committee for consideration, according to the Portland Press Herald. Lawmakers and Gov. Paul LePage's office both said there wasn't enough time to study the proposal and its impacts before the end of the legislative session. Fourteen communities send their waste to Biddeford's waste-to-energy facility; a decision to send the waste to a landfill could violate the state's waste-handling policy, which signifies that landfilling is a last resort, with waste-to-energy plants the preferred destination for trash. Legislators said that some of the waste burned at MERC could be transferred to one of the state's three other waste-to-energy facilities instead of being sent to Old Town, according to the paper.
Joe Fusco, a spokesman for Casella, said the company will continue to talk with Biddeford about a plan to close the facility despite the Senate's decision. The bill could be resubmitted in the next legislative session.
The landfill has been the subject of recent controversy. The Maine Department of Environmental Protection recently decided to allow Casella to apply to expand its waste capacity from 6.5 million cubic yards to nearly 16 million cubic yards, a move that local residents have opposed, according to the paper. A group of lawmakers has also asked the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability to look into Casella's business practices.