FOIAs Reveal Covert Incinerator Lobby Blitz

Freedom of Information Act Findings Reveal Covert Incinerator Lobby Blitz

WASHINGTON – FOIA documents uncovered by Friends of the Earth confirm that an incinerator industry campaign, led by waste management giant Covanta, is attempting to potentially co-opt billions of dollars in climate funding under the Renewable Fuel Standard. Incineration industry giants tout waste incineration energy as “sustainable” when in reality its production is dirtier than coal. 

The RFS is a federal program under the Environmental Protection Agency that was originally intended to drive alternatives to gasoline and lower greenhouse gas emissions. Instead, it has advanced biofuels that rely on dangerous and dirty forms of energy – from corn ethanol to landfill gas. Since its implementation, the RFS has failed to reduce emissions and has increased reliance on dirty energy production at the expense of local communities where biofuels are produced. Yet the EPA has proposed doubling down on the failure of the Renewable Fuel Standard by expanding the program to subsidize EV charging with electricity produced from these same dirty biofuels. Although the expansion is delayed and will likely not be included in the EPA’s upcoming June rulemaking, industry is continuing to ramp up pressure.  

Key findings from FOIA documents: 

  • Coordinated lobbying efforts took place between Covanta and incinerator-owning municipal governments in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Florida, Hawaii, California, and Oregon. 
  • Incineration industry pundits strategized Congressional pressure toward the EPA to introduce an RFS pathway for incineration. They planned to deliberately avoid attention from senators who may oppose them and downplay the need to prioritize recycling practices over burning trash. 
  • Industry insiders held multiple meetings with the EPA, including an onsite tour of an incinerator facility that was timed to minimize the amount of ash in the air. They extensively planned and debriefed these meetings in a clear attempt to mislead decision makers on the environmental and public health dangers of waste incineration. 
  • Proponents of the incineration industry openly attacked the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council. 
  • Covanta is also attempting to access IRA clean energy tax incentives and hydrogen hub funding


“Expanding the already broken Renewable Fuel Standard to subsidize dirty electricity directly contradicts this administration’s environmental justice and climate commitments,” said Sarah Lutz, Climate Campaigner at Friends of the Earth. “Burning wood or trash is about as far removed from renewable energy as you can get. The EPA must not tie the growth of EVs to new subsidies for dirty energy that harms our communities.”  

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