In July 2022, a major trash-to-energy plant in Hartford’s South Meadows closed after four decades of operation. Now, in its absence, Connecticut has been shipping 860,000 tons of trash out of state annually. In January, Gov. Ned Lamont and his environmental chief, Katie Dykes, began outlining a long-term policy for disposing of that waste.
The Materials Innovation and Recycling Authority’s trash-to-energy plant was a coal-burning power plant converted to a trash-to-energy facility in the 1980s. The permit to make the conversion was issued in the 1980s, but the permit to operate was issued in 1994. This was a time when almost every municipality had a town dump that was likely releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, polluting groundwater and playing host to an army of vermin.
Turning trash into electricity was seen as a vast improvement, and six trash-to-energy plants were built (four remain; they range in age from 26 to 34 years old). The South Meadows plant originally served 70 towns, a number that dwindled to about 50 by 2012. By that point, it was becoming clear that the plant was in dire need of renovation and upgrade. It broke down several times, and efforts to rebuild it fell through. MIRA went to the state in 2020 with a request for $330 million to refurbish the plant. When the state turned down the request, MIRA’s board voted in late 2020 to close the plant in 2022.