The Lowell Town Council signed a 20-year contract this week to supply household trash to the proposed trash-to-ethanol plant in Schneider. What a foolish move.
Council President Phillip Kuiper, who sits on the Lake County Solid Management Waste District Board, described it Tuesday as an "if and when" agreement. That means the town will ship its household waste to the trash-to-ethanol plant if it is ever built. But the agreement is nonbinding, he said, so the town could drop out at any time.
The trash-to-ethanol plant is a pie-in-the-sky idea that hasn't been able to gain traction. For 3½ years, developer Earl Powers, of Evansville, has been talking about this plan but has failed to get it off the ground.
Powers has not applied for permits to build the plant. He has not sought the appropriate environmental permits. He has not arranged solid financing yet. He has not even secured a site for the plant.
And the technology for a trash-to-ethanol plant of this scale is unproven.
The Lake County Solid Waste Management District Board this year put Powers on notice that he needs to meet specified benchmarks or his contract could be declared void 60 days from now.
And yet the Lowell Town Council just locked the town into a 20-year contract to supply trash for this plant that exists only in dream world.
Powers wants Lake County municipalities to sign on to an interlocal agreement as a means of determining how much garbage will be available for processing in the initial phase.
Other Lake County municipalities will consider this interlocal agreement as well. Munster has scheduled two separate public hearings on it.
But a 20-year contract shouldn't be signed with blinders on, although that was the case with the Lowell Town Council.
This isn't to say that the municipalities shouldn't come together for a joint solution to household waste disposal, but this phantom plant doesn't seem to be the right answer. It's time to look elsewhere for a solution.