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City To Evaluate Gasification And Other Trash Disposal Options

Sunday, July 29, 2012 at 5:00 PM

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Later this week, officials in Cleveland will begin evaluating new proposals for a trash gasification and power generation plant. The city has been flirting with the idea of turning trash into energy for several years but it’s been a bumpy courtship. Ideastream’s Bill Rice reports.

Thanks to our intern Kristen Mott for help in reporting this story. 

Advocates say gasification can be a real game-changer for trash disposal, an answer to smelly, burgeoning landfills. The process involves heating trash at very high temperatures, so high the trash is vaporized into a synthetic gas that then can be used to generate electricity.  Critics say gasification is little more than a glorified incinerator which may use more energy than it creates. 

The city-owned Cleveland Public Power company believes in it.  Mayor Frank Jackson and the city council showed interest, appropriating funds for design studies but they were halted this past March when the city abruptly fired the New Jersey based consultant it hired.  Officials said his draft reports had inaccurate financial calculations and other errors.

Then the mayor hit “the reset button,” as he put it, and issued a new call for proposals on how to make gasification work, or come up with another solution.  About 250 companies were contacted.

Cleveland Public Power Commissioner Ivan Henderson says the city is trying to be thorough.

HENDERSON:  “Because of the interest from many of the folks in the community, we wanted to make sure that we considered all practical technologies or opportunities and processes, including composting or additional recycling, et cetera, so this is basically another step in our due diligence process.”

Critics contend that gasification is an unproven technology and point to the U.S. Enviornmental Protection Agency’s designation of one proposed for Cleveland as a potential pollution source needing tight regulation.  Ward 12 Councilman Tony Brancatelli is among those who favors more traditional atlernatives.

BRANCATELLI:  “There’s quite frankly universal support to expand our curbside recycling programs and that’s the direction that council – that I’ve heard from other council members – that we want to go, including myself.”

The new proposals for a gasification plant or other way to reduce the trash going to landfills are due Tuesday.  The city will spend several months reviewing the responses.

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