Compost chicken manure, don't burn it

Why throw away money on costly, polluting waste-to-energy incinerator?

Dan Rodricks' recent column urged the new governor to get a large-scale poultry waste incinerator built on the Eastern Shore ("Larry Hogan has a chance to be a green governor," Dec. 13). This awful idea has been floated for 15 years now and has gone nowhere despite an array of government subsidies. In that time, these incinerators have been banned in Delaware and at least 10 proposals have been stopped throughout the U.S. (and several more around the world). I know because my organization, Energy Justice Network, supported most of these communities in their justified opposition. One has been built in the U.S., in Minnesota, and it was plagued by air pollution violations requiring expensive new pollution controls and was later caught burning unauthorized waste streams.

Nearly all of these incinerators are in the United Kingdom. Data presented by university researchers in Ireland at a biomass industry conference a few years ago showed that dioxin pollution from burning poultry waste was 2.6 times the legal limit in Europe. Dioxins are the most toxic man-made chemicals known to science and mainly accumulate in meat and dairy products, including contaminating poultry.

Poultry waste burning, like other forms of "biomass" incineration, releases 50 percent more carbon dioxide than coal, creating problems for global warming. Releases of several other key pollutants would also be worse than a new coal power plant, as permit comparisons have shown in North Carolina. Green Planet Power Solutions is currently being subsidized by Maryland to burn 466 tons per day of poultry litter in Somerset County and is seeking to be exempt from pollution control requirements usually in place for incinerators.

There's a reason why Exelon and other power companies aren't pursuing building these. They're prohibitively expensive and can only exist with regulatory exemptions, federal "renewable" energy tax credits and state subsidies including power purchase agreements as well as renewable energy credits in the state's incinerator-heavy "renewable" energy mandate which some are seeking to double.

A real green governor would stop throwing public money at expensive and polluting incinerator "quick fixes" and deal directly with the problem: that there is too much poultry production in one place and that the waste currently produced can and should be handled with green alternatives such as aerobic composting.

Mike Ewall, Philadelphia, Pa.

The writer is founder and director of Energy Justice Network.

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