Our Opinion: Pittsfield should explore buying waste-to-energy plant


Pittsfield faces another headache with the closing next year of a plant that takes care of its trash. Maybe Pittsfield is the solution to that headache.

Covanta Energy Corporation announced Monday that it would close its waste-to-energy facility on Hubbard Avenue in March of 2017 (Eagle, July 12). The New Jersey-based company, which only last July had extended its contract with the city through 2020, is closing the plant because, according to a spokesman, the facility's size and high operating costs have made it difficult to keep it profitable.

Pittsfield must now explore its options, which includes the expensive option of having its trash removed from the city for disposal. Also exploring its options is Crane & Company of Dalton, which uses energy supplied by Covanta.

Pittsfield should certainly look into the possibility of purchasing the plant and hiring a firm to operate it. The city doesn't have a lot of capital available and the cost of upgrading a plant built in 1981, making it one of the oldest such facilities in the nation, could be substantial. However, if the city could finance the purchase and necessary improvements, it would be assured of having a waste-to-energy facility indefinitely without having to worry about a private operator choosing to close it.

This option would presumably interest Crane & Company, which could shift the arrangement it has with Covanta to Pittsfield. In a statement, Rich Rowe, Crane's president of U.S. Government Products, said the company hopes to find a third party to operate the facility and will look at "in-house solutions." Perhaps a partnership between the city and Crane could be struck.

The Covanta closing obviously presents Pittsfield with a dilemma. But it may be that the closing also provides Pittsfield with an opportunity.


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