ATLANTA - After nearly four years and several hiccups, it appears Recovered Energy Resources is going to be allowed to lease property at the landfill in Atlanta to construct a $27 million gasification plant that will utilize the trash to produce electricity.
During Friday's Montmorency-Oscoda-Alpena Solid Waste Management Authority meeting, the board voted 6-0 to approve signing the 20-year deal with the clean energy company. The decision didn't come without some concern expressed during the public comment session and by Alpena Commissioner Cam Habermehl, but after a lengthy discussion, Chairman Joe Stone signed the agreement.
The decision to go with RER came several weeks ago at a three-county joint meeting in Hillman where all three counties voted to move forward with the gas plant. After a brief delay to have the contract reviewed by legal representatives from each county, all that was left was to put a signature on it.
The meeting was attended by a local hauler from Hillman; Diane Rekowski, director of the Northeast Michigan Council of Governments; and members of the public. Rekowski, who has been a supporter of the project since the beginning, said she is happy the plant finally will become a reality.
"I really think this is the best thing for the three counties in terms of the solid waste plan," Rekowski said. "It fits the plan as it is written right now, and any other type of development proposals in taking the waste from this landfill would require amendments and redo the flow control ordinance. I'm hopeful RER can break ground in the spring like they say."
While waiting for RER to gather financing needed to build the plant and enter into purchase agreements to buy the power produced, the landfill was entered into an exclusivity agreement with it. As the deadline of the agreement drew near, the landfill hosted another company - Green Power Technologies - who was also interested in building a bio-mass plant at the dump. Recovered Energy Resources informed the board of its financing plan and about its deal with the City of Wyandotte as a customer and the landfill board elected not to hear a plan from Green Energy Technologies.
On Thursday, Green Power Technologies was given the chance to make a pitch to the Alpena County Board of Commissioners and explain how it has formed alliances locally that are interested in buying its product and expressed a desire to build the plant in Alpena instead of at the landfill. The Alpena board held firm on its decision to work with RER and for now it appears Green Power is left to find another option. Paul Wolne of Wellington Township has seen RER's and Green Power's presentations and has followed the issue. He spoke during the public comment session of the meeting and urged the landfill board not to rush into signing the contract and to carefully weigh both options to see which fits best. He said he has serious doubts RER will meet its obligations and that the plant will ever see the light of day.
"I think the board's action on this is irresponsible and to not look at both is just irresponsible," Wolne said. "To accept the first thing that comes along, even though they have been working on it for years, it's not smart. To not even look seriously at Green Power is just flat out irresponsible. I give the chances a two out of 10 because I just wasn't impressed with the presentation they gave and the time they have had to do this. I don't think they will ever break ground."
Jerry Steinke owns Thunder Bay Sanitation and has conducted business at the landfill for years. He said he thinks the commissioners did the right thing by going with RER.
"I think it was a good decision, because number one, we won't have to bury the garbage any longer and we're going to make power with it," Steinke said. "I give it about a 50-50 chance of being built, but if it is going to be easier for the haulers because the landfill will be open more hours of the day, and that is big for the haulers."
RER hopes to break ground in the spring and according to Rekowski the company would be set to begin its environmental work with the state of Michigan as soon as the agreement was signed. The contract states the plant must be operational by April 1, 2014.
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689.