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Thursday, February 11, 2016

Ind. Courts - More on "Indy sued over $45M recycling center deal"

Updating this ILB post from Sept. 12, 2014, Brian Eason reports today in the Indianapolis Star, under the headline "City, Covanta halt deal for recycling center opposed by environmentalists." Some quotes:

The city of Indianapolis and Covanta have agreed to suspend a contract to build a $45 million commingled trash-recycling center, Mayor Joe Hogsett announced Wednesday.

The single-stream center, which would have allowed residents to throw recyclables into their city garbage bin along with their trash, had been bitterly opposed by environmental groups and Democrats since the Republican former Mayor Greg Ballard inked the deal in August 2014.

At the heart of the dispute is whether the convenience of commingled recycling is worth abandoning hopes for a more robust curbside recycling program that could have cleanly recycled more types of materials without risk of contamination.

And, in what became a recurring criticism of Ballard's last years in office, opponents bristled at a process that they felt circumvented the sort of public input that might be expected on an agreement of this magnitude. The deal, which extended Covanta's existing contract to incinerate the city's trash, locked Indianapolis into a $112 million commitment through 2028. And, to the chagrin of environmentalists, it arguably includes disincentives to conservation. The city would have incurred a $4 million annual penalty if it implemented a competing recycling program in order to recycle more goods. * * *

Hogsett said he would re-evaluate the contract over the next 90 days.

“Leadership begins with listening, and I believe Indianapolis deserves a true community conversation before we move forward with any waste and recycling plan,” Hogsett said in a release. “I appreciate Covanta’s willingness to agree to this effort as we work toward a long-term solution that best serves our neighborhoods and our environment.”

But even as Hogsett alluded to the need for more public input, the city is continuing to defend the Ballard administration's handling of the contract in court.

Hogsett's announcement came hours before the Indiana Court of Appeals heard arguments in a lawsuit challenging the way the contract was approved. The complaint, brought by two paper companies and a concerned citizen, alleged that the city didn't follow proper public hearing requirements. A lower court ruled in the city's favor.

It remains unclear what, if any, changes the Hogsett administration might seek. Taylor Schaffer, Hogsett's spokeswoman, said the agreement with Covanta allows everyone to hit the pause button and later decide between a number of options: Move forward with the Ballard deal, cancel plans for the new center or negotiate changes to the deal to appease environmental groups.

The lawsuit, argued Feb. 10 before a COA panel, is Graphic Packaging International, et al v. City of Indianapolis, et al.

ILB: Oddly, although argued in the Supreme Court Courtroom, the website indicates that there is no video of the oral argument available.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on February 11, 2016 10:21 AM
Posted to Environment | Indiana Courts | Indiana Government