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Friday, January 27, 2012

Trash Talk Getting Expensive in Cleveland

Posted By on Fri, Jan 27, 2012 at 11:17 AM

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While the Ohio EPA is still entertaining your comments on a permit that would allow Cleveland Public Power to build a trash gasification plant at the Ridge Road transfer station, the focus is turning to the city’s rather nonexistent plan to finance the $180 million facility.

Thankfully, that hasn’t stopped the city from spending like Ferris Kleem in a Vegas steakhouse. Armed with $537,500 in grant money, Cleveland has already blown most of that wad on a $285,000 feasibility study, plus $40,000 for junkets to Asia and $5,000 in miscellaneous costs. The city will also ask council to approve another $250,000 to pay for consultants. But wait — there’s more!

Cleveland has put $300,000 in escrow for Peter Tien’s Princeton Environmental Group, which has been trying to sell CPP on the Japanese gasification manufacturer Tien represents. If the EPA approves the permit this spring, Princeton stands to get another $1.2 million.

When questioned about financing last week at the first of several community meetings held by the city, CPP Commissioner Ivan Henderson had no answers. “There are many options, both private financing and public financing,” he told the crowd of about 100 trash enthusiasts. “But I can guarantee that if it doesn’t make sense then it’s a no-go.”

That no-go itself could be a problem. In a 2010 CPP document outlining the pros and cons of various financing plans, obtained through a public records request, one scenario is titled “Do Nothing. Do not develop the project even if the City obtains the air permit.” Among the cons listed: “City and its partners will have spent nearly $2 million in project development cost … with only the air permit to show for it,” and “contributors ... may question the City’s decision not to proceed.”

Indeed they may.

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