The Maryland Department of the Environment has extended the comment period for Frederick County’s controversial waste-to-energy incinerator because of the strong public response the project has generated.
The department has received more than 800 comments regarding the project, MDE spokesman Jay Apperson said Tuesday.
Extending the comment period until May 20 will allow more people to file comments and more time for the department to review and consider the comments that have already been filed, Apperson said.
The law requires a 30-day comment period and an additional 60 days upon request, Apperson said.
Anticipating significant public interest, the MDE established a 90-day comment period, he said.
Steve Bruns of Frederick, who has opposed the project, said the MDE’s decision was a “welcome development.”
The facility’s opponents think it’s very important for the agency to allow time for enough public comment, Bruns said.
Bruns and other opponents were upset in August because they didn’t believe that the approximately 50 minutes allowed for public comment at a meeting on the project’s water permit provided enough time for people to speak on the issue.
The department ultimately held a second hearing on the project’s various permits in January.
Dan Andrews of the Catoctin Group, the local chapter of the Sierra Club, said he was glad the comment period was extended.
The incinerator is a “legacy project” that county residents are going to have to live with for 40 years or more if it’s built, Andrews said.
So he said it’s important residents and officials fully understand the impact the project would have.
“Do we need more time? Definitely,” Andrews said.
Del. Michael Hough (R-Dist. 3B) of Brunswick, who has opposed the project, also said he’s glad the comment period was extended.
Lots of people have done a lot of work and research and have made some good points that need to be addressed before the project moves forward, he said.
Hough said he was not happy that not everyone could be heard at the initial meeting, and was pleased that the MDE held a second hearing and now has extended the time frame.
“It’s always good to make sure everyone’s voice is heard before a decision is made,” Hough said.
Frederick County Board of Commissioners President Blaine R. Young (R) said he understands that the MDE wants to make sure everyone had an ample opportunity to express their opinions on the project.
But the extension doesn’t change the county’s perspective that the project is needed, Young said.
Young has said that with the county’s landfill on Reich’s Ford Road in Frederick at capacity, the county pays $51.51 per ton to truck garbage to landfills in Pennsylvania and Virginia.
Ultimately, a decision will come down to whether the numbers make sense once the county has the permits in hand, and whether the county can find a partner to work with, Young said.
The facility has been a long-planned project between Frederick and Carroll counties, although Carroll has expressed interest in getting out of the project.
In January, Carroll County Commissioner Richard Rothschild (R) told The Gazette that Carroll had told Frederick to actively pursue another partner in the project.
If the permits are issued, construction could start this year on an 11-acre site at the McKinney Industrial Center south of Frederick next to the county’s wastewater treatment plant off of Buckeystown Pike.
The cost of the facility is estimated to be $527 million, with Frederick County’s share at $316 million.