The Erie County Commissioners have found themselves up to their necks in debt at the Erie County landfill. What seemed like a way to create some revenue at the landfill by contracting with Renewable Energy Services to build a gas flare and sell off energy credits and electricity, has instead turned into a money pit.
Erie County, which is contractually obligated now to spend about $250,000 to build a gas line at the landfill, will have more than $500,000 invested in the project by year's end, yet it hasn't collected a dime. Not a single cent! Instead of a pipe line, we've seemingly been sold a pipe dream.
No wonder county commissioners Bill Monaghan and Pat Shenigo are now questioning whether Renewable Energy Services presidents Jim Hiendlmayr has lived up to his company's end of its December 2007 contract with the county.
Meanwhile, Hiendlmayr has claimed to invested about $2 million to pay for a generator and other equipment for the project and has filed a court injunction against the county to get it to live up to its end of the contract and build the necessary pipeline to allow the project to move forward.
If it all works out, the county could earn up to $100,000 a year from the sale of carbon credits as well as up to $70,000 a year from the gas-to-electricity side of the program. Even if those best-case estimates come true, it will be years before the county recoups its original investment in the project.
The county appears to have no choice but to bite the bullet and move forward -- but if the project keeps costing the county money instead of making it, however, we have to hold those commissioners that signed the contract -- Monaghan, Tom Ferrell and Nancy McKeen -- accountable for this mess.