Arizona Supreme Court Clears Way for Controversial Trash Incinerator

– by Arlene Karidis, February 12, 2016, Waste Dive

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Photo: Waste Dive

The Arizona Supreme Court has upheld the earlier decision of Arizona state utility regulators, ruling that it is acceptable for Mohave Electric Cooperative to burn trash to generate power at a facility proposed by Reclamation Power Group plant near Surprise.

The Arizona Corporation Commission had given Mohave Electric Cooperative the go-ahead five years ago, which fueled heated debate, particularly from the Sierra Club who filed a lawsuit stating that energy from burned trash is not renewable. But the appellate judges left the call to the Commission, and now the highest court’s final rule opens the door for Mohave to meet its renewable energy mandate through incineration. It also opens the door for Reclamation Power Plant to charge Mohave to absorb some of the cost and build the facility. Mohave in turn can impose a surcharge on its 39,000 customers to recoup some of its cost to deliver this alternative energy source.

The utility company would accept 500 tons of trash a day, recycle 25% of it, and burn what’s left to generate electricity.

Dive Insight:

The Arizona Commission is mandating that utilities obtain at least 15% of their power from renewable resources by 2025, and the region’s chosen waste-to-energy model of incineration will help achieve this goal, a model that continues to invite pro and con debates far beyond Arizona. Most recently there were discussions about trash-burning methods in Europe just after Zero Waste Europe revealed serious emissions violations at several incineration facilities across that continent.

A few technologies claim to be cleaner alternatives than incineration, from a carbon capture system to what has been touted as the latest in combustion and air control technology.

But these alternative, clean fuel systems can be expensive and take time to fully develop and become widely available to end users. For now, utilities must find means to tap into the renewable sources that time, money, and regulations allow. And for a city in Arizona, after a long fight, this will most likely mean burning trash for energy.

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