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Why Garbage Incinerators Are A Bad Deal For Communities

Host John Farrell speaks with Marie Donahue, ILSR researcher, and Neil Seldman, Director of ILSR’s Waste to Wealth Initiative, about the harmful impacts of burning trash to generate electricity.

Originally published at

Host John Farrell speaks with Marie Donahue, ILSR researcher, and Neil Seldman, Director of ILSR’s Waste to Wealth Initiative, about the harmful impacts of burning trash to generate electricity.

The trio dive into ILSR’s recent report Waste Incineration: A Dirty Secret in How States Define Renewable EnergyThey also discuss:

  • Baltimore’s recent passage of the Clean Air Act, a bill that will effectively shut down the Wheelabrator incinerator.
  • Three key reasons why incinerators are a bad deal for communities including: financial risk, environmental injustice, and public health concerns.
  • The story behind the successful efforts to shutdown two incinerators in Baltimore. Neil details how residents of the marginalized Curtis Bay neighborhood organized at the grassroots level to advocate for their community.
  • How 23 states are providing subsidies to incinerators by allowing them to benefit from renewable energy tax credits.
  • What communities and cities can do instead of hosting incinerators to manage their waste, foster a healthier environment, and create jobs.

The economics of incinerators don’t add up. Incinerators are risky investments for the local governments and utilities that support and subsidize them, particularly as energy prices decline [thanks to renewable alternatives.]

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Written By

John directs the Democratic Energy program at ILSR and he focuses on energy policy developments that best expand the benefits of local ownership and dispersed generation of renewable energy. His seminal paper, Democratizing the Electricity System, describes how to blast the roadblocks to distributed renewable energy generation, and how such small-scale renewable energy projects are the key to the biggest strides in renewable energy development.   Farrell also authored the landmark report Energy Self-Reliant States, which serves as the definitive energy atlas for the United States, detailing the state-by-state renewable electricity generation potential. Farrell regularly provides discussion and analysis of distributed renewable energy policy on his blog, Energy Self-Reliant States (, and articles are regularly syndicated on Grist and Renewable Energy World.   John Farrell can also be found on Twitter @johnffarrell, or at


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