November 29, 2012

City residents pose questions about trash power

Source of refuse and facility ownership among topics discussed Wednesday.

by Amie Sites

LOGANSPORT — Curious citizens crowded council chambers of the city building Wednesday evening to discuss a project to power the city with trash.

Residents posed questions in response to a plan city officials announced Tuesday evening. The city is looking for a private entity to invest at least $500 million into turning the existing coal-fired power plant into a plant that burns pellets of residual refuse.

Officials have said the project would add jobs, use renewable energy and allow Logansport to achieve energy independence in the long run.

Questions ranged from where the trash would come from to why other U.S. locations don’t have the pellet technology and whether trash used as fuel would be safe.

Bill Finks, Logansport, attended the meeting to find out more information on the proposed trash pellets.

“I was looking at where they would get the trash, if Logansport couldn’t create enough,” Finks said

According to the team of seven experts headed by consulting firm William-Lynn-James, a third of the pellets would be manufactured in Logansport and two thirds would be brought in.

About $200,000 has been spent on pre-planning stages, according to Logansport Municipal Utilities superintendent Paul Hartman. If the project goes through, he said, the money will be given back. But if it doesn’t, LMU is out those funds.

“$500 million is a whole lot of money, but if we weren’t serious we wouldn’t be going through this,” Hartman said. “We’ve talked to nearly 50 entities and the interest is there.”

The plant would burn solid waste pellets and would achieve total system capacity of 300 megawatts compared to the 38 megawatts the coal plant currently generates. Consultants estimate the new plant would allow the city to generate electricity at a cost of 4.5 to 5.5 cents per kilowatt-hour.

The other recourse discussed at Tuesday’s Utility Service Board meeting, if nothing is changed with LMU’s current power plant, was to buy all power from current supplier Duke Energy, adding about 63 percent to an average residential electric bill.

Residents were curious whether Logansport would ever own the power plant, since the city is seeking a private entity to fund the project. Hartman said there is an option not to own it and that would be negotiated when proposals are looked at.

Dan Slusser, a member of the Utility Service Board, asked how the proposed and existing plants’ conformity to  Environmental Protection Agency regulations would compare.

The current plant hasn’t been required to control emissions, Bernie Paul, president of B Paul Consulting LLC, said, but the new plant would.

Citizens also asked why other places in the U.S. are not using pellets as a fuel source. Alvaro Almuina, director of EllSo Consulting Inc. and one of the consulting team members, noted both Duke Energy and New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg have created requests for proposals similar to what Logansport has created.

Former senator Tom Weatherwax said the development would encourage people to stay in Logansport and would also bring people to the city.

“Next to Hoosier Heartland, this is the second largest economic development I have seen,” Weatherwax said.

Concerned citizens asked what kind of waste would become pellets.

“The materials are not hazardous waste materials,” Franklin said. “The point of this project is subject to EPA regulations and this is nothing but ordinary household waste.”

Amie Sites is a reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at 574-732-5150 or