MUNSTER | Four of five Town Council members voted Monday night to approve the interlocal agreement with the Lake County Solid Waste District for the proposed $450 million privately owned trash-to-ethanol plant.
Councilman John P. Reed, a Munster lawyer, abstained from the vote because one of his clients is involved in the project. Voting to sign the agreement were councilmen John Edington, Andy Koultourides, Joseph Simonetto and Council President David Nellans.
Nellans and Simonetto are members of the Lake County Solid Waste District, which is composed of representatives from all Lake County municipalities.
The Lake County Solid Waste District signed a contract with developer Earl Powers of Powers Energy of America in November 2008 to construct the plant in Schneider. Powers and his partners are in negotiations with an American oil company to buy all ethanol produced at the plant.
As proposed, the trash-to-ethanol facility in Schneider would consolidate the county's trash processing and convert carbon-based garbage into ethanol fuel.
Munster is the fourth community to sign the agreement in the past two weeks, said Jeff Langbehn, district executive director. Dyer, Merrillville and New Chicago recently signed the interlocal agreement.
The agreement also was on the Highland Town Council agenda Monday and will be considered Tuesday by the Griffith Town Council. It carries no penalties for municipalities signing the agreement and guarantees that rates for processing the garbage at the ethanol plant won’t increase for 20 years.
Langbehn attended the Town Council meeting to answer questions during a public hearing. Other affiliated with the solid waste district at the meeting were Cliff Dugan, attorney for the district; and Ed Cleveland of SMC, the joint venture construction company formed to build the Schneider Advanced Biofuel Facility for Powers Energy.
No hazardous waste will be allowed in the facility. However, yard waste and recyclables, even batteries, will be processed by the plant, Langbehn said. The yard waste will provide fuel for the plant. It will increase recycling but save municipalities money they spend on recycling by waste haulers, he said.
Communities throughout Lake County are being asked to sign the interlocal agreement with the Solid Waste District to participate in the biofuel plant. This will allow the waste district to estimate how much garbage initially will be available for processing, Cleveland said.
Municipalities that sign the interlocal agreement prior to July 18 will receive benefits including a share of a $2.50-per-ton rebate that the Solid Waste District will get from the ethanol plant.
In addition, early agreement signers will be guaranteed a reduced “tipping fee” or dumping fee of $17.25 per ton of garbage processed by the plant.
“This is the lowest tipping fee in the country,” Langbehn said, adding that nationwide fees for landfills and other trash facilities is $28 to $40 per ton.
“Lake Station currently pays $39.50 per ton to take trash to a transfer station,” he said.
If financing goes through construction could begin in the spring and be completed in 36 months, Cleveland said.