County wants to route all garbage through ‘gasifier'

| 22 Feb 2012 | 01:43

    Supervisor: Chester will take the plant if Montgomery doesn’t want it, By Edie Johnson Chester — A plan to convert garbage to electricity is getting wild praise from officials who say it will make the county self-sufficient while ending the days of landfills. Orange County Executive Ed Diana wants to route all of the county’s trash through a “gasifier” plant proposed for Montgomery. “This has been a dream for 15 years — a revolution, a vision for the future,” said Diana. The system, which uses combustion to turn all non-recyclable trash into electricity, is “a great opportunity for Orange County to be on the forefront of how garbage should be disposed of throughout the world,” he said. The county’s environmental services commissioner, Peter Hammond, explained the plan to the Physical Services Committee last week. The Town of Montgomery Planning Board is now reviewing the application by Taylor Biomass to build the facility. The company’s owner, Jim Taylor, said the project will lose federal funding if Montgomery does not give him the go-ahead by Oct. 15, in which case it will not go forward. Chester town Supervisor Steve Neuhaus said Chester will welcome the gasifier if Montgomery does not come through. Another proposal in Goshen Another energy company, ICM, is hoping to build a gasifier on Hartley Road in Goshen. But the town supervisor, Doug Bloomfield, said earlier this summer: “Goshen has jails, landfills and transfer stations. The people are not pleased with this in Goshen. They will go to any lengths if they don’t want this facility.” The energy produced by the Taylor facility will be enough to power the plant, some municipal buildings, and Stewart Airport, Hammond said. Valley Central School will likely be the first to receive the energy because of its proximity to the site. “It will put Orange County environmentally on the map,” Diana said. “We will become the first county in the state, perhaps in the country, to be self-sufficient with respect to its garbage.... We no longer have a single landfill in Orange County.” Jobs and revenues The facility will create approximately 85 permanent new jobs and 400 temporary construction jobs, while producing $2.5 million in tax revenue for the school district, the county, and the town, officials said. But the president of Orange Environment, Mike Edelstein, doubts the environmental advantages of the plant. The combustion process is frequently incomplete, he said, usually because of a failure to maintain the high temperatures necessary for full combustion. If this happens, hazardous waste will linger both in the ashes and in the air, he said. He notes that the county is already non-compliant with air quality standards, even before its expected growth in population, business and housing. The committee was not asked to vote on the proposal but only to “buy into the concept.” The county will be responsible only for organizing the flow of materials to the site. Taylor said his firm will get $34 million of the hoped-for federal funds outright: $10 million in federal credit subsidies, and the remainder in federal loans. Should the program fail, he said, the insurer will cover losses. The county now pays $65 for every ton of garbage its residents produce. Adjacent counties have seen costs increase to $85 per ton. Because garbage contracts are usually long — from 10 to 15 years — the new contract will include a buy-out clause that will allow the county to opt out, for a price, if an irresistible new technology came along. Leigh Benton of Newburgh, chair of the Physical Services Committee, said the downside was that it would affect several large trash haulers in the county and a lot of small “mom and pop” trash businesses. While they would still be permitted to haul, they would be required to dispose of their loads at the gasifier plant. ‘Trash is Gas’ Taylor followed in his footsteps of his father, who removed landscape debris in the 1950s and found that he could double his profits by turning the debris into mulch that could then be resold, a practice adopted by many towns in the Hudson Valley. Recycling trees turned into recycling just about everything. Taylor now has a fleet of 13 trucks at its Neeleytown site that does business in Orange, Ulster, Dutchess, Sullivan and Rockland counties. While the timetable for approval is tight, Taylor remains optimistic. His Web site sports the motto: “Trash is Gas.”