In December 2015, we reported about the Free Your Voice group of Curtis Bay teens that were fighting to stop construction on the country’s largest trash incinerator in their neighborhood. Today, Curtis Bay’s youth learned that their grassroots organizing made a difference – the incinerator will not be built.
To recap, New York-based Energy Answers had started construction on a massive waste-to-energy incinerator in south Baltimore’s Curtis Bay area. The proposed incinerator butts up to neighborhoods and schools. Burning 4,000 tons of other states’ tires and plastics every day meant a lot of toxic mercury and lead pollution – more than all of Maryland’s coal-fired power plants combined.
Energy Answers had counted on electricity purchase agreements with local municipalities to buy the plant’s electricity. Once opposition began highlighting the incinerator’s downsides, local municipalities pulled their contracts.
Led by Destiny Watford, students and the community created Free Your Voice. Organizing with United Workers, the youth danced, sang, and advocated for the incinerator’s closure, getting lots of national press along the way.
Last month, the Environmental Integrity Project filed a notice of intent to sue Energy Answers on behalf of the community over the status of the project’s permit. Under the federal Clean Air Act, approval to build a major source of air pollution, like the Energy Answers incinerator, expires if a company halts construction for a period of eighteen months or more. Energy Answers had halted construction on the plant for longer than 18 months. This law prevents companies from avoiding newer air pollution requirements that may have been passed since a permit was issued.
Today, Maryland’s Department of the Environment (MDE) announced that the project is officially dead based on expired air quality permits.
Destiny said, “We are incredibly proud of the MDE for making the right decision helping us move forward towards a future filled with truly green developments. Now, more than ever, is the time for our public officials to stand with residents as we work to make our positive vision a reality.”