Blog Post Joy M. Oakes Dec 2, 2014

Victory: Incinerator Project Defeated at Monocacy

County officials in Maryland vote down a trash-burning incinerator that would have been just yards from a Civil War battlefield.

For nearly a decade, county officials in Maryland had planned to build a large trash-burning incinerator just yards away from the park boundary at Monocacy National Battlefield. On November 21, after a long campaign by hundreds of advocates united in their opposition to this ill-conceived plan,  the  Frederick County Commissioners finally reassessed and voted against the project once and for all.

The conflict at Monocacy is a critical part of America’s Civil War history, and is widely known as “the Battle that Saved Washington.” On July 9, 1864, Union forces engaged Confederate troops along the Monocacy River long enough to deploy reinforcements to defend Washington, D.C.—the Union capital where the Confederates were ultimately headed. Though the Union lost the Battle of Monocacy, this defeat enabled Union forces to prevail in the larger, more critical fight two days later. Without the Battle of Monocacy, the nation’s history might have turned out very differently.

Now an important tourism destination, Monocacy National Battlefield drives more than $3.8 million in spending annually and supports more than 50 area jobs. The incinerator would have emitted more than 229 tons of carbon monoxide, 73 tons of particulate matter, and 39 tons of sulfuric acid mist, among many other pollutants, into the air over the park each year. The towering industrial structure also would have been visible from all parts of the battlefield, degrading the site’s historic character.

NPCA and its supporters opposed the ill-conceived plan in numerous ways over the years, including:

  • Unleashing an outpouring of public concern, including several thousand comments urging Maryland Department of the Environment to deny environmental permits for the facility
  • Submitting testimony in support of bills to prohibit incinerator construction near battlefield parks and other public lands in two consecutive terms of the Maryland General Assembly
  • Urging officials in nearby Carroll County, who had once supported the project, to end their role in planning the incinerator—which they eventually did
  • Spreading the word in both traditional and social media

In the end, the incinerator’s $471 million price tag may have been the biggest factor influencing the county commissioners’ decision—but persistent pressure from NPCA and our many allies helped bring widespread attention to the issue, reinforcing the basic principle that a facility to burn trash is a deeply inappropriate neighbor for hallowed ground.

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“I’m grateful to each of NPCA’s members and supporters who helped protect  the legacy of those who fought and died here,” said Ed Stierli, NPCA field representative. “I’m especially grateful to the local residents who questioned this proposal from the start, and, just like the Union Army, endured many setbacks before ultimately prevailing.”​

About the author

  • Joy M. Oakes Former Senior Regional Director

    Since 2001, Joy M. Oakes been a leader with the National Parks Conservation Association based in Washington, D.C. Joy serves as Senior Director in the Mid-Atlantic region, overseeing NPCA’s activities in five states and the District of Columbia.

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