Tonight could be the night it is determined whether or not Recovered Energy Resources will be allowed to construct a gasification plant at the landfill in Atlanta. There is a special meeting at 6 p.m. in the Hillman Community Center where the full boards of commissioners from Alpena, Montmorency and Oscoda counties could vote on an agreement that would lead to the plant's construction.
Landfill Administrator Sandy Cunningham said the six commissioners who sit on the landfill board passed a considerations of support that will be forwarded to their respective boards. She said she believes a vote will take place. Cunningham also said according to the bylaws and policy, the landfill board could legally enter into an agreement without the vote of the other commissioners, but added the gasification project is too large to not have input from everyone.
"The board has the authority to enter into a contract, but they would never get into something of this magnitude without full board support," Cunningham said. "The landfill board wanted this forwarded to the full boards for consideration of support."
The landfill hosted a similar meeting several years ago in which RER and DTE Energy explained the technology behind the plant and the desire to move forward. After the recession hit, DTE pulled out of the plan and RER struggled to line up financing and buyers for the electricity it will produce. Now the green energy company has entered into a 20-year agreement with the City of Wyandotte, which will buy the electricity. Cunningham said because there are new faces on the county boards, RER will review some of the past information before moving on to the current proposal.
"They will touch a little bit on the background and history and explain some of the stumbling blocks they had to overcome because of the economic climate," Cunningham said. "If this becomes a reality, it would be such an economic stimulus to the local economy with the jobs it would create. It really would be substantial, and the whole region will benefit from it. It would provide 30 good-paying jobs from workers from all three counties. Local contractors will be hired for the construction, so it really would have a large impact on the region. We are not being asked to sink one dime into this until it is up and running, so really we have nothing to lose."
Cunningham said the Northeast Michigan Council of Governments and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation will be in attendance to show support for the project. She said she expects all of the commissioners to attend and hopes the public turns out for the meeting as well so they can be brought up to speed on what the plant does and how it will impact the area.
"The public is welcome and encouraged to attend, and we hope they ask questions so they can get answers firsthand," Cunningham said. "We have always had a good relationship with our neighbors, and we anticipate that to continue if the plant is built."
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689.