The often contentious but always spirited discussion regarding the I-95 Waste to Energy Plant located on Furnace Road will come to an end today.
At issue is whether the county should purchase the plant—for a reported $418 million culled from bonds guaranteed by tipping fees—or re-negotiate the terms of the contract between Covanta, the New Jersey-based company that owns and operates the plant, and Fairfax County, which owns the land on which the plant is located.
The discussion began last year as that was when the contractual window opened that allowed for the county to exercise an option to buy the plant.
The plant, which has 67 employees, burns approximately 3,000 tons of trash per day and converts the steam generated from the burning into energy. A detailed explanation of how the procedure works can be found by clicking here.
In January, Fairfax County Executive Anthony Griffin came out in favor of the purchase of the plant, largely on economic grounds. He deemed a purchase be in the county’s best long-term interest. Another key issue was the ability to control the trash in the county. An explanation of Grffin’s reasoning to endorse the purchase can be found .
After Griffin’s announcement officials held three meetings at locations throughout the county presenting their case. The county’s presentation to citizens can be found .
It was during those meetings that opinions became polarized, and the disagreements between officials eventually came to light. Springfield Supervisor Pat Herrity was against the purchase. Mount Vernon Supervisor Gerry Hyland came out in favor. Lee District Supervisor Jeff McKay said his colleagues were “derelict in their duty” for even discussing the issue in public while negotiations were ongoing, which they were.
The Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce opposed the purchase and eventually Board Chairman Sharon Bulova voiced a preference for a re-negotiation of the lease terms.
The initial vote by the Board of Supervisors on February 22nd as over 20 speakers addressed representatives.
While some spoke in favor of the purchase for the reasons that Griffin cited, others found the county’s numbers and financial projections to be flawed. Claims about trash volume in the county and whether Covanta or the county could control it were questioned. As were environmental issues.
In Lorton specifically, years of mistrust of the county’s motives returned to the surface.
A Lorton resident’s letter of opposition to the county’s purchase of the plant can be found .
But the debate has now come to an end.
This afternoon the Board of Supervisors will make two decisions. First, in a closed-door session they will hear the latest on negotiations and decide whether to make a motion in favor of purchase or in favor of re-structuring the lease. Then they will vote on either the lease or the purchase.