Testimony in Opposition to LD 399, An Act to Amend the Portfolio Requirements for Class II Resources;
and LD 437, An Act to Eliminate the Repeal Provision on Waste-to-energy Renewable Energy Credits
Senator Lawrence, Representative Zeigler, and members of the Joint Standing Committee on Energy, Utilities and Technology, my name is Sarah Nichols, and I am the Sustainable Maine Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM). Thank you for this opportunity to testify in opposition to LD 399 and LD 437, which are both aimed at making the temporary 300% multiplier applied for the Class II Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) for waste-to-energy facilities permanent.
Waste should not even be listed among renewable energy sources, let alone be given special treatment with a 300% multiplier in perpetuity.
NRCM strongly supports the increase of renewable resources that help reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, improve our environment, and provide long-term stability for our energy system. Truly renewable energy sources are those that are naturally regenerative. When we harness the energy created by the tides, sun, and wind, for instance, we do not destroy these resources—they are infinite. And it doesn’t take energy from our grid to create them.
Municipal solid waste (MSW) on the other hand—which is our daily household and commercial trash—is made of finite resources that needed significant energy to create and ship to a disposal facility. When burned, these resources are destroyed, and they do not naturally renew. The combustion process generates air pollution along with the heat used to make electricity. Plastic is a particularly troubling fuel source since it’s made from fossil fuels. The plastics industry’s contribution to climate change is on track to exceed that of coal-fired power plants in this country by 2030.¹
NRCM’s position is that if we are going to be burning trash, then we should at least make lemonade out of lemons and capture the energy (and have strict pollution controls in place). Capturing energy should be the required best practice for this disposal option, along with landfill gas capture, but we believe that neither should be considered to be a “renewable capacity resource,” nor a “renewable resource” in Title 35-A Chapter 32 §3210.
Making disposal at a waste-to-energy plant cheaper works against sustainable waste policy.
The waste-to-energy facility in one of the bill sponsor’s town of Orrington is a key part of our state’s waste processing infrastructure. But this facility provides a good example of one of the unintended consequences of waste-to-energy. I often refer to these facilities as “hungry trash monsters” because they require a steady stream of MSW to operate. In 2019 that facility was not being fed enough plastic to burn efficiently, so they imported 100 metric tons of shredded plastic from Northern Ireland. Two of those tons were not unloaded safely at the Mack Point cargo facility in Searsport, and the result was a devastating plastic pollution spill in Penobscot Bay.
One big reason why that plastic waste was shipped to Maine to be burned here, and why our state has never met our waste reduction and recycling goals, is because disposal at a landfill or incinerator has historically been the cheapest waste management option. If our state’s energy policy is used to make disposal of waste at a landfill or waste-to-energy facility even cheaper, let’s say by extending this 300% multiplier in perpetuity, for instance, it’s going to make Maine a desirable location for disposal. It will also severely impact our ability to make the economics work in favor of waste reduction and recycling in our state and prevent us from ever reaching our goals.
For all the reasons I’ve described above, we urge you to allow this multiplier to sunset in 2025 as planned by voting ought-not-to-pass on LD 399 and LD 437. Thank you for your consideration of these comments, and I’d be happy to answer any questions.