The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors expressed its intention to extend the county's contract with Covanta Energy to operate a waste-to-energy trash incinerator in Lorton.
Board members approved new contract terms on an 8-2 vote today and are expected to formally approve the contract within 60 days.
County Executive Anthony Griffin had recommended purchasing the facility, at an estimated cost in excess of $400 million, because an initial staff analysis suggested that would be the most beneficial option for the county in the long run.
The privately owned and operated waste-to-energy plant, which burns trash and uses the heat to generate electricity, sits on county-owned land adjacent to the former county landfill. Almost all non-recyclable county waste is disposed of at the incinerator.
Many business leaders and citizens in the county fought the proposed purchase, saying that it is too costly and too much risk for the county to take on.
According to Chairwoman Sharon Bulova, after floating the purchase option, the county subsequently was able to negotiate more favorable terms that make it more financially beneficial to renew the contract with Covanta. The new extension terms would save the county $300 million over the life of the contract, which would go until 2041, as compared to renewal terms negotiated in 2008, Bulova said.
"I support the option to renew the agreement ... because I believe it presents a better financial alternative to letting the current agreement expire ... and gives the county greater future flexibility and more options than a purchase," Bulova said.
Supervisors Gerald Hyland (D-Mount Vernon) and Catherine Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill) voted against the contract extension.
"The terms that we have from Covanta today, in my opinion, do not go far enough in terms of protecting the interests of the county in terms of its solid waste future," Hyland said.
He is concerned that the terms do not do enough to prevent Covanta from importing higher-value trash from jurisdictions outside the Washington metropolitan region. He also contends that Covanta has paid higher fees to other jurisdictions where it operates than what it is offering to Fairfax County.