Covanta Marion Incinerator

Covanta Marion Incinerator in Brooks, Oregon

350 Salem OR is working with other environmental and health organizations to shut down the Covanta Marion Incinerator. Covanta is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Marion County.

The incinerator also emits toxins such as heavy metals and dioxin, known to be detrimental to human health and the environment. Covanta incinerates hazardous medical waste as well, including out-of-state medical waste.

There are sensible, lower-cost solutions for garbage disposal. If Covanta closes, the county could take waste to Coffin Butte Landfill north of Corvallis. This state-of-the-art landfill already takes West Salem garbage. Sending trash to a landfill rather than burning it would be less expensive, eliminate a significant public health hazard, and create fewer greenhouse gas emissions. A Zero Waste program would divert most of the solid waste to reuse, recycling and composting.

350 Salem’s August 18th press release urges the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to do the right thing:

350 Salem OR Calls On DEQ to Deny a New 10-Year Permit for Covanta Marion Incinerator

August 18, 2021                                                                                     

Salem, Oregon – If the Department of Environmental Quality is going to follow Governor Brown’s Executive Order 20-04 directing all state agencies to do everything within their power to meet Oregon’s goals for greenhouse gas emissions reductions, 350 Salem OR believes that the DEQ needs to deny Covanta, Inc., a new 10-year permit to operate their garbage incinerator in Brooks.

The current permit to burn solid waste, including medical and industrial waste from throughout the U.S. and Canada, expires on August 30th. Covanta has applied to the DEQ for a new permit that would allow the facility to continue operations until 2031.

350 Salem OR, the Salem chapter of the global organization fighting the Climate Emergency, has sent a letter to DEQ calling on the permit to be denied, because to do otherwise would be to violate the Governor’s order.

“To comply with the Governor’s Executive Order, DEQ must not renew a 10-year permit that allows the continued operation of a facility that the DEQ’s own report for 2019 indicates emits over 162,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases every year, the equivalent of annual emissions from 35,000 automobiles,” writes Phil Carver on behalf of 350 Salem. “The Covanta Marion incinerator is the top emitter in Marion County and in the top 25 for the entire state.”

On March 10, 2020, Governor Kate Brown signed Executive Order 20-04 directing state agencies to take actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the state in order to achieve the state’s goal of reducing emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 and 45% percent below 1990 emissions levels by 2035. The Executive Order directs the DEQ and other state agencies to “exercise any and all authority and discretion vested in them by law to help facilitate Oregon’s achievement of GHG emissions reduction goals.”

350 Salem OR is demanding that Covanta Marion incinerator cease operations to combat climate change. Instead Marion County should send all of its solid waste to the Coffin Butte landfill near Corvallis that emits far less greenhouse gases. All of West Salem’s solid waste and some of Marion County’s solid waste is already being sent there.

Besides the greenhouse gas emissions from the incinerator, 350 Salem OR is very concerned about the high levels of toxic emissions from the Covanta Marion incinerator that poses a severe environmental justice issue for impacted communities, including communities of color, and has for over three decades.

“It is inconceivable to us that granting a 10-year permit to a facility that will emit 1.6 million metric tons of greenhouse gases in the next decade is compatible with the goal to reduce emissions by 45% over roughly that same time period,” writes Carver. “The DEQ needs to use “any and all authority and discretion vested in them” as the Governor directs. Granting another permit to Covanta Marion would be a clear and direct violation of EO 20-04 and we request that the permit be denied.”

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