Classification of Trash Incineration as “Renewable” Hurts the Climate and Consumers

Washington, DC — A new analysis by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, Clean Water Action, and Progressive Maryland reveals that Maryland is poised to waste over $300 million dollars subsidizing trash incineration between 2012 and 2030. These findings come days before the Maryland General Assembly is scheduled to hold its final hearing on the Reclaim Renewable Energy Act of 2024 (HB166/SB146), which would remove incineration as an eligible source from Maryland’s Renewable Portfolio Standard.


Under Maryland law, electricity providers can buy “Renewable Energy Credits” (RECs) sold by trash incinerators and pass the costs of those credits on to consumers in their energy bills. In the decade between 2012 and 2022, Maryland energy providers spent approximately $100 million on these credits, an amount projected to rise by an additional $200 million between 2023 and 2030.

More than 80 environmental justice, labor, religious, educational, climate, and community organizations support the Reclaim Renewable Energy Act, arguing that inclusion of trash incinerators in the state’s main clean energy program is a counterproductive subsidy of harmful pollution that undermines Maryland’s climate goals. Studies have found that trash incinerators emit more CO2 per megawatt-hour than coal plants in addition to toxic air pollution that causes heart disease, lung disease, and cancer.

The analysis by PEER, Clean Water Action, and Progressive Maryland also found in 2022, the last year state data is available, that:

  • WIN Waste Innovations, the company that owns and operates the BRESCO trash incinerator in Baltimore, received about $4.2 million in subsidies through the sale of RECs;
  • Montgomery County government (which supports the Reclaim Renewable Energy Act) received about $8.7 million in subsidies through the sale of RECs; and
  • Covanta, a company that owns and operates a trash incinerator in Lorton, VA, received $11.7 million in subsidies through the sale of RECs.

The report also notes that the price of dirty incineration RECs has risen over seven-fold in the past ten years and is more expensive than wind RECs. The report notes that eliminating trash incineration from Maryland’s RPS will allow the state to redirect that money to preferable, less-polluting sources of energy, such as wind, solar, and geothermal.

“It is high time for Maryland to clean up its renewable energy program,” stated PEER Executive Director Tim Whitehouse, a former senior enforcement attorney with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, pointing out the current program decreases the incentive to adopt more sustainable waste practices and artificially cheapens the most polluting methods. “Subsidizing energy sources that pollute our air and water as part of a clean energy program is just plain nuts.”

“For over 39 years, the Baltimore trash incinerator has been operating in my community releasing toxins into the air that me and my two children breathe. It is frustrating and insane that we still fund the incinerator through our utility bills,” said Shenae Thomas, a resident of Cherry Hill neighborhood in Baltimore.

“Communities near the BRESCO trash incinerator in Baltimore know all too well that incineration is not renewable energy,” said Carlos Sanchez, youth leader with the South Baltimore Community Land Trust. “Forcing us to subsidize the trash incinerator that’s polluting the air we breathe, instead of the wind and solar that would help clean our grid, is adding insult to injury. That’s why we’re presenting our Senator, Senate President Ferguson, and the entire General Assembly with a letter signed by 12 community and business organizations in District 46, including SB7, calling on them to pass the Reclaim Renewable Energy Act of 2024.”

“There is no justification for diverting much-needed subsidies away from real renewable energy to benefit trash incineration. Instead, we should support new rooftop and brownfield solar development here in Baltimore City to power homes and create green jobs,” said Baltimore City Councilman Mark Conway. “I’m proud to be standing with colleagues on the Baltimore City Council calling on the General Assembly to pass the Reclaim Renewable Energy Act of 2024.”

“The time to fix this longstanding environmental injustice and climate catastrophe is now,” said Jennifer Kunze, Maryland Organizing Director at Clean Water Action. “No one in Maryland can afford for our renewable energy money to keep being wasted on trash incineration. All eyes are on Chair Feldman, President Ferguson, Chair Wilson, and Speaker Jones, and their decision whether or not to bring this important and broadly-supported bill to a vote.”

“I moved to Westport 35 years before the incinerator was built in my community. I was devastated when I found out I had cancer after living down the street of the incinerator and I know a whole household on my block that has gotten cancer. How can we continue to fund something that contributes to cancer and asthma?” Mary Randall, resident of Westport neighborhood in Baltimore.

The Senate Education, Energy, and the Environment Committee, chaired by Senator Feldman, held its hearing on the Reclaim Renewable Energy Act of 2024 on January 25; the recording is available here. The House Economic Matters Committee, chaired by Senator Wilson, is scheduled to hold its hearing on the bill on March 7.


Read the Analysis in Maryland’s Energy Subsidies are Going Up in Flames: Classification of Trash Incineration as “Renewable” Hurts the Climate and Consumers

Read the Reclaim Renewable Energy Act of 2024 (HB 166/SB146)

 Look at amount of CO2 released by the three incinerators currently in Maryland’s RPS (below)

Facility CO2 Emissions/Year
Baltimore Wheelabrator/BRESCO 690,033 tons
Montgomery Co. Resource Recovery 579,804 tons
Covanta Fairfax/I-95 1,271,801 tons
Total Annual CO2 Emissions 2,541,638 tons
EPA Emissions Inventory Data (2020)

Read the Maryland Power Plant Research Program Renewable Portfolio Standard Report 

Read the Maryland Climate Pollution Reduction Plan


Tim Whitehouse [PEER] (240) 247-0299, [email protected]
Jennifer Kunze [CWA] (240) 397-4126, [email protected]
Senay Emmanuel [PM] (301) 485-9742, [email protected]