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Aerial photo of Wheelabrator waste-to-energy incinerator on Russell St.
Aerial photo of Wheelabrator waste-to-energy incinerator on Russell St. (Lloyd Fox / Baltimore Sun / Baltimore Sun)

The owner of a waste-to-energy plant in southwest Baltimore is suing the Baltimore County government, saying it reneged on a contractual agreement to send an annual minimum amount of trash to the facility.

In a lawsuit filed Thursday in the Baltimore County Circuit Court, Wheelabrator representatives wrote that a reduction in the amount of trash sent to the incinerator is a breach of a contract, “causing Wheelabrator damages currently estimated to exceed over $32 million.”

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According to the lawsuit, Baltimore County signed a contract in 2011 agreeing to send 215,000 tons of waste per year to Wheelabrator in exchange for price reductions.

A state renewable energy program is sending millions of dollars of ratepayer subsidies to Baltimore's biggest polluter, the Wheelabrator incinerator. Community activists in South Baltimore are trying to increase recycling to essentially put the incinerator out of business.

In 2018, the county delivered 65,813 fewer tons of waste than required under the contract, and did not deliver enough in the first months of 2019 to be on track to meet the target, the lawsuit alleges.

Wheelabrator is asking for damages “to exceed $32 million.”

Baltimore County spokesman T.J. Smith said the county does not comment on pending litigation.

The garbage incinerator has faced scrutiny in recent years. A Baltimore Sun investigation found it has collected millions in green energy subsidies, despite the fact that it is a major source of air pollution.

Baltimore’s city council passed air quality legislation in February that Wheelabrator officials have said could force the facility to shut down.

After the Baltimore City Council passed clean air legislation Monday that could lead a large trash incinerator to shut down, officials in the city and surrounding counties began considering their alternatives for if and when that consequence comes to pass.

Baltimore County trash accounts for about 40 percent of the waste stream burned at the incinerator, located next to Interstate 95 off Russell Street. The county said previously it sent 280,000 tons of trash to the plant in 207 and would divert that to Eastern Sanitary Landfill in White Marsh if the incinerator closed.

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