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Incinerators are not green

How can Maryland invest in renewable energy more wisely?

Dana Stein's recent commentary in The Baltimore Sun ("Green energy: Baltimore's next manufacturing industry?" Jan. 11) was heartening, in part, because it did not mention an incinerator currently proposed by Energy Answers Corporation. Construction of this incinerator — the largest of its type in the nation — would begin this year in the Curtis Bay area of Baltimore, a disadvantaged community. Last month, well over 100 people demonstrated outside the Maryland Department of the Environment headquarters, urging the agency to honor the law and pull Energy Answers' permit to proceed.

The omission was appropriate because waste-to-energy projects like this are neither renewable nor green; they are, in fact, wastes of energy projects. Why? It is far more efficient to recycle than it is to burn and then re-fabricate. Trash incinerators are prime examples of dirty energy; they spew cancer-causing dioxins and other pollutants such as heavy metals into the air we breathe as well as lots of greenhouse gases. They are, in fact, more polluting than coal-fired power plants! Ironically, Maryland's Renewable Portfolio Standard currently incentivizes trash incineration. For these reasons, the Sierra Club and other progressive organizations are working for legislation to strip harmful technologies such as waste incineration from the RPS while increasing its collective standard so that it does not incentivize polluting monstrosities like trash incinerators.

The recent Paris climate accord framed the goal of limiting greenhouse gases. Late last year, the bipartisan Maryland Commission on Climate Change voted unanimously to achieve a 40 percent reduction in 2006 greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. Maryland has enough solar and wind energy potential to carry this torch and to create thousands of well-paying jobs in the process. At the end of 2015, Maryland alone had 177 companies in the solar sector, providing well over 3,000 jobs. To encourage the development of clean, renewable energy, legislation is currently proposed to increase the state's RPS 25 percent by 2020. This increase combined with removing RPS incentives for dirty energy projects will set Maryland on the path toward a clean sustainable future.

Richard Reis, Silver Spring

The writer is energy committee chair for the Maryland Sierra Club.

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