Detroit Incinerator Wins Millions In Brownfield Tax Credits

11/23/2011 04:48 pm ET | Updated Dec 19, 2011

Detroit City Council left critics of the city's contentious trash incinerator puzzled and angry Tuesday, when the body voted to approve a hefty tax credit for the facility's operator.

Detroit Renewable Power had lost an earlier bid for $4.1 million in brownfield development credits this April, when the Council denied its request, the Metro Times reports.

"The citizens have paid for this burner 20-some years and here we are. All of the state is going to help to pay for this now," Margaret Weber, of the Zero Waste Detroit Coalition, told Fox 2.

Council President Pro Tem Gary Brown and Member Andre Spivey flipped on their earlier positions Tuesday, allowing the motion in favor of the tax credit to pass 5-4, according to the Metro Times.

The trash incinerator has long been a focal point of criticism from environmentalists and others in the community. The facility, which also serves as a power plant, has violated air quality standards three times in recent months, according to Fox 2.

"You have to consider the health of your residents," the Michigan Environmental Council's Sandra Turner-Handy told Fox 2. "We have three times the national rate of asthma in that area surrounding that incinerator."

According to the Metro Times, environmentalists were not the only people to turn up for the Council vote; workers from the plant showed up as well and urged city lawmakers to support the incentives. The tax credits will be used for new equipment and site improvements.

Jeff Washington, chief steward at Detroit Renewable Power, made a case for the incentives in March in the Michigan Citizen.

"I was elated when DRP stepped in, brought the full [union] membership back, had a plan to get the plant going again and created even more jobs. It's not an incinerator -- it's a power plant," he said.

"We've got to start thinking about longterm sustainable practices in the city of Detroit," Turner-Handy told the Citizen at the time.

"Sooner or later we're going to learn not to burn trash. So let's make the transition now when we can create twice as many jobs and long term jobs," she said.

What baffles opponents most about the City Council's decision is the fact that brownfield credits typically go towards cleaning up polluted land.

"State brownfield redevelopment incentives were capped earlier this year, leaving a much smaller pot for really important public subsidies that should be directed towards ... development that revitalizes older, urban areas distressed by contaminated and obsolete properties," read an article on the website of the group Detroiters Working For Environmental Justice,

Councilman Ken Cockrel, Jr., who voted against the measure, told Fox 2 that even Detroit Renewable Power admitted its case for the money was weak.

"We heard from the owners that they said, 'No, we really don't need this. We just want it and we qualify for it,'" Cockrel said.

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