Do people believe that burning garbage should receive tax credits equal to solar power?

Are you aware that there are a host of government subsidies, intended to support renewable energy that are being hijacked by the incinerator industry? That’s right. Burning garbage is some-how made to appear equal to wind, solar, and micro-hydro. And the garbage-burning companies are lobbying politicians to secure these subsidies.

Recently, GAIA, the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives published a report BURNING PUBLIC MONEY FOR DIRTY ENERGY: Misdirected Subsidies for “Waste-to-Energy” Incinerators. This report shows how Waste to Energy (WTE) companies have lobbied hard to have garbage-burning included in the Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) of 22 states. They are currently attempting to be included in the New York State RPS. A strong citizen lobby in New York State and and across the country is fighting to stop these perverse subsidies for garbage burning, so that renewable energy such as wind and solar, as well as zero waste can be funded.

I am writing to you in the hopes that you will share this information with your readers, so that we can build public opposition to our tax money being squandered on dirty energy.

Below is a press release dated 11/29/11, on the economic impacts of such subsidies. If you have any questions or comments, please email, or call, I would be happy to speak to you. I am a member of GAIA, a grassroots network of environmental justice and zero waste activists. If you wish to speak to a member of the staff at GAIA please call Monica Wilson at (510) 883-9490-ext.103 or you may email her at

Laurie Stoerkel
Oakland, CA

For Immediate Release
November 29, 2011

Jen Angel: 510.910.5627
Monica Wilson: 510.682.7663

Public Spending on Dirty Energy Holding Back U.S. Job Growth
Nation could create 1.5 million new jobs through recycling

Public spending on waste incinerators is causing financial hardship for city and county governments across the nation, most notably for Harrisburg, PA. The city declared bankruptcy last month due to a $300 million dollar incinerator debt. The use of public funds for burning waste not only poses financial and health risk for communities, it also undermines the creation of millions of jobs in the recycling sector.

The incinerator industry is aggressively seeking public subsidies in a number states. On November 17, New York Public Services Commission staff recommended that state commissioners reject a petition by Covanta Energy to receive renewable energy subsidies. Covanta Energy is the largest U.S. incinerator company, owning more than half the existing “waste-to-energy” (WTE) incinerators across the country. Many New York organizations, including business associations, health professionals and state lawmakers opposed to Covanta’s petition expressed disappointment when commissioners delayed their decision.

“It’s outrageous that these toxic trash burning facilities are trying to persuade our state to give them public subsidies that should really be invested in real renewable energy, recycling and jobs,” stated Barbara Warren, Director of the New York Citizens Environmental Coalition. “If the Public Service Commission grants Covanta’s petition, the public will lose out on clean energy investments in several ways – we will get much more dirty energy and far fewer green jobs.”

In contrast to burning waste, a new report, More Jobs, Less Pollution, finds that a national recycling rate of 75% would serve to create 1.5 million new jobs across the nation. The report, commissioned by the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), the Teamsters Union, the Blue Green Alliance, NRDC, and SEIU, also finds that recycling creates 10 to 20 times more jobs than incinerators and landfills, while significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions and toxic pollutants.

A second report by GAIA, Burning Public Money for Dirty Energy, illustrates how WTE incinerators, the most expensive and carbon-intensive form of electricity generation, are seeking a range of public funds that are intended to help develop clean energy sources such as wind and solar power.

Congress is poised to make the situation worse by considering a number of bills that would waive environmental regulations and create new tax exemptions for WTE incinerators. National environmental law group Earthjustice estimates the resulting pollution could cause up to 9,000 deaths each year.

A number of U.S. cities that built incinerators have faced bankruptcy. These waste burning facilities cost more to construct (per unit of energy) than nuclear power, and cost ten times more to operate than coal power plants. Like Harrisburg, the city of Detroit, MI has faced bankruptcy a number of times in the past due to its incinerator debt. In each of these instances the city narrowly avoided going broke by cutting back spending from key civic services.

“The Detroit incinerator has bled our city’s coffers dry,” said Ahmina Maxey, Associate Director of East Michigan Environmental Action Council. “But it gets worse. The incinerator is polluting residents, while robbing Detroiters of hundreds of jobs. It’s time to get our priorities straight.”

Over the last 20 years, Detroit has paid over $1.2 billion in debt service payments alone for this incinerator and last week, on November 22, the city of Detroit gave the new Detroit incinerator owner $4.1 million in new tax breaks, funds that are typically earmarked for the cost of cleaning up hazardous industrial sites.

“While state and federal policymakers consider more funding for toxic, high-risk garbage burning plants, they should be aware that such subsidies not only endanger both public health and the public purse, they also stand in the way of a recycling economy that produces millions of good jobs, resilient communities and the highest end use of our finite resources,” stated Monica Wilson, U.S. Program Director for GAIA.


Attached Reports:
More Jobs, less Pollution: Growing the Recycling Economy in the U.S., Tellus Institute, Nov 2011
Burning Public Money for Dirty Energy: Misdirected Subsidies for WTE Incinerators, Nov 2011
Waste to Energy Incinerators Myths vs. Facts, Oct 2011



  1. 0 Votes


    Thank you for your question. I can’t speak for the general populace or any advocates of WTE. However I think that anyone who is aware of the social costs and environmental impact associated with waste incineration, would realize that it is not “clean” energy. Further, they would realize that those who benefit financially from incineration plants and WTE (this includes lobbyists) are about as interested in clean energy as a CEO of an oil company; WTE is simply a another channel for income and an excuse for tax breaks. 

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