Marion city council discusses $22 million waste-to-ethanol project
The Marion City Council will consider a motion to draft a letter of support regarding a grant application to help fund a $22.7 million waste alternative project on Thursday.
Marion is in talks with the Maryland company Fiberight which operates plants that extract cellulose material from waste and convert it into ethanol. Fiberight purchased a plant in Blairstown as the “hub” and is working to build “spoke” supply facilities in towns including Marion and Iowa City. Marion officials visited Fiberight’s Virginia facility in January, and issued a formal letter of intent in April.
If approved, trucks would dump Marion’s trash at the Fiberight spoke facility in town. The organic portion of that waste stream would then be trucked to the Blairstown hub facility.
At Tuesday’s work session, Director of Public Services Ryan Miller gave a presentation on the project and said discussions will continue at Thursday’s council meeting.
Miller showed the council renderings of the potential 50,000 square-foot supply site in Marion. The final draft of the Resource Recovery Agreement is complete and in the council’s hands for review, he said. There will be no formal legislation on the agreement at Thursday’s meeting.
“There is no rush on this,” Miller said at Tuesday’s meeting. “We want to do our due diligence.”
Miller requested the council consider issuing a letter of support regarding the application for a grant through the Solid Waste Alternatives Program on Thursday. A few months ago, Miller said they met with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, who “fully supported” their intent to pursue the Fiberight project. The department suggested applying for the grant.
They are requesting $5.7 million through the grant, and Fiberight is willing to cash match over $17 million. The total project cost is $22.7 million.
Miller said Marion could work with Fiberight as they simultaneously continue ongoing discussions with Plasma Power LLC.
At-large City Councilor Paul Draper said he believes the two facilities would be able to “share the amount of garbage” in Marion.
However, Charlie Kress, spokesman for Waste Not Iowa, strongly disagreed. The organization is a strong proponent of the long-discussed Plasma Arc technology, and is opposed to a Fiberight facility.
“The [Fiberight] process is highly inferior to what plasma power can do,” Kress told the council. “I would urge the council to vote no on this.”
Kress said he does not believe Fiberight and Plasma Power LLC could coexist in Marion.
“I think it’s rushing into something that should not be done at this time,” he said.