In an effort to head off the proposed construction of a new trash-burning plant on the site of the problem-plagued Pulaski incinerator, City Councilman Perry Sfikas has introduced a bill that would place a five-year moratorium on the construction or expansion of such plants in Baltimore.
The owner of the Pulaski incinerator has said he is negotiating to sell the plant to a firm that wants to erect a $200 million trash-to-energy plant on the site.
The Sfikas measure, co-sponsored by nine council members, is supported by a wide range of community and environmental groups who fear that a new incinerator in Baltimore would discourage recycling efforts and further pollute the region's already dirty air.
"If they build a new incinerator, they would do one of two things," says Dan L. Jerrems, president of the Baltimore Recycling Coalition. "They will kill recycling or import out-of-state trash. Neither is acceptable."
Mr. Sfikas, D-1st, and supporters of his bill say the proposal would give "everyone in the city a chance to see if alternative measures" will be sufficient to handle the region's trash disposal needs.
"We ought to be about the business of looking for alternatives for incineration," says Councilman Carl Stokes, D-2nd, a co-sponsor.
Mr. Stokes points out that Baltimore has one of the highest rates of cancer in the nation. And the city's dirty air is part of the reason for that, he says.
While many council members support Mr. Sfikas' bill, the measure apparently has one key opponent: Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, who says a moratorium is unwarranted.
"He told Councilman Sfikas that he cannot support a blanket moratorium," says Clinton R. Coleman, Mr. Schmoke's press secretary. "His view is we need to have a balanced plan, one that includes recycling and composting. But, unfortunately, we continue to need capacity for landfilling and incineration."
As if to underscore that point, the Schmoke administration last night introduced into the council a bill that would float a $25 million revenue bond to expand the Quarantine Road Landfill.
But Councilman Timothy D. Murphy, D-6th, threatened to block the measure in his Taxation and Finance Committee. "This may be one of those proposals that never come to the floor of this council," said Mr. Murphy, who has lost other incinerator battles in the past.
The proposed incinerator moratorium comes just weeks after the owner of the Pulaski incinerator, which has been cited for numerous pollution violations, revealed he was negotiating to sell the plant to American Ref-Fuel of Houston, which wants to erect a $200 million trash-to-energy plant on the site. The bill also comes as Wheelabrator Environmental Services is vying for state and city permission to expand its Refuse Energy Systems Co. plant on Russell Street.