County, Fort Meade at impasse on methane deal

The Baltimore Sun

Officials from Anne Arundel County and Fort Meade say discussions about using methane gas from the Millersville Landfill as a power source for the Army post have reached an impasse, nearly 13 months after they announced a partnership to help provide a new energy source to serve a huge expansion there.

Col. Kenneth O. McCreedy, Fort Meade's commander, confirmed differences regarding the "economics" of building a five-mile, $9 million pipeline and directing natural gas from the landfill to the post. McCreedy said he has asked County Executive John R. Leopold to take a last look at the proposal.

"It doesn't look good," McCreedy said Wednesday after a meeting of the Fort Meade Alliance, an organization that promotes Fort Meade.

County officials shared the sentiment.

"Over the course of negotiations, the cost has escalated and is impacting the benefit for Anne Arundel County," said James J. Pittman, the deputy director of the county's waste-management services. "There is another meeting that is in the process of being scheduled to see if there's one last shot of doing that."

The Army is building 1.3 million square feet of office space to accommodate the 4,300- employee Defense Information Systems Agency and other tenants moving to Fort Meade as part of BRAC, the federal base realignment and closure process. Nearly 6,000 federal employees are scheduled to move to the base by 2011.

In October last year, County Executive Janet S. Owens and McCreedy signed a memorandum of understanding to open formal discussions on how much methane the facility can produce, how much the county would charge and how it would get transported to the post.

Officials called the agreement a "rare win-win-win" that would solve multiple challenges.

County officials estimate that 100,000 tons of trash is deposited at the 564-acre Millersville Landfill each year. It holds about 12 million cubic yards of garbage and generates tens of thousands of cubic feet of methane each day.

The county uses wells and pipes to collect the gas, which is naturally produced by the decomposing garbage, then burns it off.

The amount of methane being generated is expected to increase significantly during the next two decades, officials have said.

McCreedy said the proposal with the county "still makes sense" because natural gas from Millersville would be the power source for BRAC tenants. After the new offices are built, he said, it would be impractical to retrofit generators.

The commander again lauded benefits of harnessing the greenhouse gas as a power source. From an environmental standpoint, he said, the county's practice of burning the methane coming off the landfill "is not as effective."

Pittman said the stalemate is largely over how much the post would pay for the methane.

"We haven't had the opportunity to meet with the fort to clearly understand why it is that they can't offer as much as we think we should be getting," Pittman said.

Fort Meade has "other solutions" to supply energy to new tenants, McCreedy said.

In a statement, he said the post will pursue using methane through an energy savings performance contract, which helps private energy companies install and maintain new energy-efficient equipment at federal facilities at no upfront cost to the government.

The company is paid back from savings by the federal agency on energy and maintenance bills.

It was unclear where the methane would come from without an agreement.

County Councilman Jamie Benoit, whose district includes Fort Meade, said he is disappointed by the lack of an agreement.

"This was an opportunity to be creative about managing our landfills," Benoit said. "I am hopeful the county can find the way to take the lead in solving these problems. We have to think creatively about how we are going to manage our own waste."

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad