14 Sep 2014
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What's Next for the County and Covanta?

Waste-to-energy plant negotiations have been filled with twists and turns

What's Next for the County and Covanta?

Tuesday will mark the next chapter in Fairfax County’s ongoing saga with Covanta, owner and operator of the waste-to-energy plant off Furnace Road.

During the closed session of tomorrow’s meeting, the County Board of Supervisors is expected to discuss the latest update to the term sheet by Covanta.

Negotiations between the County and Covanta came to a halt during the last meeting of supervisors on April 26. It was during that meeting that County staff members identified items in the term sheet that were different than what had been approved during the March 29 meeting. In the Match 29 meeting the board voted 8-2 to with Covanta through 2031.

But the supervisors said the term sheet they saw on April 26 was different than what had been voted upon, causing them to unanimously agree to order County staff to immediately stop the negotiations with Covanta. The change to the term sheet was characterized as

Covanta claimed that there had been no change and that there had simply been a misunderstanding between the parties. In a letter to Board Chairman Sharon Bulova dated May 2, Covanta Americas President Seth Myones said, ”Regrettably, there has been a miscommunication regarding the process…and for this we apologize.”

Myones went on to say that it is likely that “we can reach a quick resolution” and proposed to deliver a revision to the term sheet to the County by Wednesday, May 4th. Sources with the County confirmed that the revised term sheet had been received and was being evaluated by County staff. Sources with knowledge of the revision have indicated that it is different from the original agreement in late March.

If a lease agreement cannot be reached, the County has until June 3 to exercise the option to purchase the plant. Should that day pass without a purchase agreement, the two parties will be bound in their existing agreement until its expiration in 2016.

The turn of events has Mount Vernon District Supervisor hopeful that the board might review the option to purchase the plant fir an estimated $418 million, as had been recommended by County Executive Anthony Griffin. But Hyland understands that the public is wary.

“The figure ($418 million) is so large and people are skeptical,” Hyland said. Hyland went on to say that he believes there is a misperception in the general public about where the money is coming from to pay for the plant, and that there is a belief that it would come out of general funds, when it would be actually be paid for with tipping fees.

Hyland believes the perception was fostered in part by the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce, which was an outspoken opponent of the county’s attempt to purchase the plant and, in an election year, applied political pressure. “They did a great job and they pulled out all the stops,” Hyland said.

Now that the deal is in jeopardy, Hyland wondered, “Where is the Chamber now?”

Calls by Lorton Patch to the Fairfax Chamber of Commerce seeking comment about the Covanta-County negotiations were not returned.

The situation has left some South County residents frustrated, and not for the first time. Neal McBride, who was and has been critical of the county in the past, said, “Maybe these two (the County and Covanta) deserve each other.”

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