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VICTORY! Covanta Contract Stopped in U.S. Capitol City

We just stopped Washington, DC from approving a $36-78 million contract that was awarded to Covanta to burn the city’s waste for the next 5-11 years. In a rigged bidding process, the city allowed just three incinerators in communities of color (no landfills) to bid to take 200,000 tons of waste a year. The contract was awarded to Covanta’s incinerator in Lorton, Virginia — 4th largest in the nation and one of the largest polluters in the DC metro region. Lorton is the 12th most diverse community of color in the nation, and is also home to a sewage sludge incinerator and three landfills.

This is the first time we led a campaign to stop a major waste contract, and we’re excited to show that EJ allies in a major city can take responsibility and stop their waste from being burned in EJ communities. I hope to repeat this in Philadelphia as the contracts come up in the next few years for burning in Covanta’s incinerator in Chester, Pennsylvania (the nation’s largest, and a huge environmental racism travesty). Philadelphia is second only to New York in dumping on Chester.

Energy Justice Network was joined by 20 other organizations in calling on City Council not to move the contract to final approval, and ultimately, our new mayor withdrew it from consideration, killing it. The city will now have to cut a 1-year contract (hopefully not with any incinerator, if we can help it). This buys us time to convince city leaders that incinerators are indeed worse than landfills and that we need to resort to landfilling as we get the city’s zero waste goals implemented, including digestion of residuals prior to landfilling.

Last summer, we helped pass a law that bans Styrofoam and other food service-ware that isn’t recyclable or compostable, gets e-waste and composting going, and requires the city to come up with a zero waste plan (and I got it amended to ensure that incineration is not considered “diversion,” but “disposal”). We’re at a good crossroads in DC, where we can get the nation’s capitol setting good examples. The long-standing head of the Department of Public Works is stepping down, giving the city a chance to replace him and others anti-recycling incinerator zealots in the agency with real zero waste leaders. Any good candidates are encouraged to apply here.

Special thanks to Chris Weiss, Jim Schulman, Jen Dickman, Neil Seldman, Ruthie Mundell, Matt Gravatt, Erin Buchanan, Kevin Stewart, Brent Bolin, and the following groups who all joined forces to make this victory possible: 350 DC, American Lung Association, Breathe DC, Inc., Center for Biological Diversity, Chesapeake Sustainable Business Council, Clean Water Action, Community Forklift, Community Wellness Alliance, DC Climate Action, DC Environmental Network, Empower DC, Food & Water Watch, Global Green USA, Green Cross International, Institute for Local Self-Reliance, NAACP DC Branch, Moms Clean Air Force – DC Chapter, Save America’s Forests, SCRAP DC, and Sierra Club – DC Chapter.

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