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Wheelabrator to pay city $4M, lobby MDE for change

The operator of Baltimore’s incinerator will pay the city almost $4 million in unpaid taxes under a settlement set for approval Wednesday by the Board of Estimates.

Wheelabrator Baltimore L.P. will also return more than $300,000 in improperly reimbursed property taxes under terms of the settlement, which are included in the city spending panel’s agenda.

New Hampshire-based Wheelabrator, a subsidiary of Waste Management Inc., operates the waste-to-energy facility in Westport, its white smokestack marking “Baltimore” for travelers on Interstate 95. The city Law Department has been in negotiations with lawyers from Wheelabrator since June 2013, according to the board’s agenda.

The unpaid “solid waste surcharge” covers taxes owed from Jan. 1, 2012 through March 31, 2014, according to a copy of the settlement agreement.

Wheelabrator also “has agreed to lead the effort” to lobby the Maryland Department of the Environment to change its policy and allow ash to be used as an “alternative daily cover” at the Quarantine Road Landfill at Hawkins Point. Ash, a byproduct of the incinerator, goes on a landfill’s surface each night to control fires and odors.

If Wheelabrator is successful, it would receive a 35 percent reduction on the tipping fee for the ash used for the alternative daily cover.

City Solicitor George A. Nilson said Tuesday a change in MDE policy could bring in $1.5 million in revenue for the city.

Wheelabrator currently diverts 60,000 tons of ash to Baltimore County, which the Law Department previously determined would lengthen the “useful life” of Quarantine Road Landfill, according to the Board of Estimates agenda.

The settlement also states the city will not buy any electricity from Wheelabrator until at least 2016.

The proposed settlement was first reported by the website, Baltimore Brew, which said the city pays Wheelabrator approximately $10 million a year to run the incinerator and had projected a 7 percent profit over the course of a 10-year contract approved in 2011. The settlement resolves “a number of issues” arising out of the 2011 contract, according to the agreement.