Panel urges lifting of ban on incinerator building

June 10, 1994|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,Sun Staff Writer

The Baltimore Planning Commission yesterday recommended conditional approval of legislation to lift a citywide moratorium on incinerator construction -- a decision that gave a boost to a proposal to replace the 40-year-old Pulaski Highway incinerator with a state-of-the-art garbage burner.

The commission recommendation is contingent on its review of the final development plan for the facility, including its size, financing and health and environmental controls. That review would be needed before any building permits were granted.

The commission's favorable recommendation, though widely expected, is likely to improve the chances for speedy passage of the legislation by the City Council.

Willard Hackerman, the owner of the Pulaski plant, praised the commission yesterday for its thorough appraisal of his plan and said he had no problems with the conditions.

But opponents of the bill, who packed yesterday's meeting, said the commission should not have recommended approval.

"The case that was presented against the bill was very clear-cut," said Cynthia K. Hitt, chair of the Baltimore Recycling Coalition.

"The conditions are very ambiguous," she added.

Mr. Hackerman has proposed to tear down the 40-year-old polluting Pulaski plant and to replace it with a $300 million waste-to-energy facility, but has offered few specifics.

The administration of Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke is backing Mr. Hackerman's plan, which requires the council to lift a five-year ban on incinerator construction it imposed in 1992, saying it is needed to solve the region's waste disposal needs.

But environmentalists, recycling advocates and neighbors of the plant argue that even the most modern incinerators release toxic materials. They dispute that a new incinerator is needed and say it would hurt efforts to expand recycling.

The commission voted 4-0 with three abstentions.

Two members abstained because they had not attended two lengthy hearings on the bill.

Fourth District Councilman Lawrence A. Bell III did not vote because of unanswered questions about the health impacts of a new plant.

City Solicitor Neal M. Janey, who recommended approval, agreed that such questions were "a bona fide concern" and suggested that Mr. Hackerman fund a community health clinic.

Also recommending approval were City Public Works Director George C. Balog and members Gwendolyn A. Bullock and Samuel Hopkins.

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