Give counties a say over all garbage importation
Kentucky's new power plant siting board has until April to consider a plan to convert processed garbage from New York and New Jersey into electricity in rural Clark County.
No matter how that decision goes, a big question will remain hanging: Shouldn't local governments have a say when out-of-state waste is imported into rural Kentucky?
A state agency says not in this case, that Kentucky's landmark 1991 solid-waste management law does not apply to the plan to generate electricity with gas produced by mixing coal and up to a million tons a year of pelletized municipal garbage from the Northeast.
The agency's decision is being appealed by Clark County resident Charles Waters, who is represented by Tom FitzGerald of the Kentucky Resources Council.
We wouldn't venture to guess how the technical and legal questions finally will shake out.
We also wouldn't hesitate to say that Kentuckians do not want this state to become a final destination for New Jersey's milk jugs, New York's Pampers and we shudder to think what else.
Never mind if the garbage comes by train, truck, barge or in the form of pellets, or if it's buried in a landfill or "gasified" by an unproven technology, as is the case about 30 miles southeast of Lexington in Trapp.
If the state Division of Waste Management is correct and county governments are excluded from this kind of decision, then lawmakers should fix that weakness in the law as soon as possible.
The 1991 law was enacted to stop a tide of out-of-state garbage from overrunning rural Kentucky. It required county governments to develop waste-management plans and empowered them to limit the amount of waste coming into their counties.
Enacting added protections, if necessary, would be worth lawmakers' time even if market forces kill the Trapp project, as seems increasingly likely.
Cincinnati-based Global Energy has been unable to obtain necessary financing to construct the 540-megawatt project, even though the company would be paid for taking the garbage and has support from the U.S. Department of Energy.
East Kentucky Power Cooperative, which already owns and operates a coal-fired generator in Trapp, has notified Global that if financing is not in place by Jan. 31, the co-op will cancel its 20-year contract to buy the plant's electricity. The original deadline for financing was June 30, 2001.
East Kentucky Power already has started building a coal-burning generator in Mason County to provide about half the power that was supposed to be produced by Global.
If East Kentucky Power no longer needs the new generating capacity to serve Kentucky consumers, the proposed garbage-to-power project becomes just another power merchant, polluting here to create electricity for sale elsewhere.