Freshman Rep. Sean Maloney got President Obama’s attention Wednesday—and some national media coverage—when he brought up a long-delayed garbage-to-energy project in the Hudson Valley.
Several news reports described Obama as dismissive and rude during their verbal exchange, which came during a question and answer period at the end of the president’s morning pep talk to House Democratic caucus.
The meeting was closed to the media, but some Democratic lawmakers spoke to reporters about the Obama-Maloney exchange when they left the meeting.
Maloney told the president that the issue could have been handled at the staff level, but he wanted Obama to know that a 2009 application by Taylor Biomass Energy LLC based in the Orange County community of Montgomery was awaiting final approval and could immediately create jobs in New York’s 18th Congressional District.
Maloney was elected last November to represent the 18th Congressional District covering Putnam and Orange counties and parts of Westchester and Dutchess counties.
One unidentified Democratic lawmaker who spoke to CNN said that Obama testily observed that Maloney could return to his district and let constituents know he had brought the issue up to the president.
“I considered it good natured kidding,’’ Maloney said in an interview. “Look, I appreciate the president has offered to engage on this project which will create hundreds of jobs in the Hudson Valley and fit into the goals of the loan program.’’
White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters later in the day that “in fact, the president was very appreciative of the question.’’
“ I think the question got into specifics about a program, and the president not only said his staff would follow up on it but he guaranteed that the president’s staff would follow up on it,’’ Carney said. ”He was very glad to see the interest in these kinds of programs that was expressed by the congressman.’’
James W. Taylor, president of Taylor Biomass, said he’s “proud’’ to have his project mentioned to the president.
“For me as a little guy, family business owner in Orange County, to have been acknowledged and recognized by the president of the United States is something to be very proud of,’’ he said in a phone interview. “And I now know that the president knows of this project in Montgomery, N.Y. and I also know I’ve got a congressman that’s out there working to create jobs and create electricity and solve municipal waste problems.’’
Taylor said $43 million already has been invested in the project and he’s lined up another $80 million in private investment funds that are contingent on the $152 million federal loan guarantee.
The plant will mix organic waste with sand that is heated to 1850 degrees, converting it to a gas that will be cleaned and used to power electrical turbines.
“We are fully permitted,’’ he said. “All of the site work has been completed. Some of the equipment has already been delivered. This project is shovel-ready.’’
If the loan is approved, construction would begin immediately and create 380 construction jobs over 18 months, Taylor said.
Once operational, the plant would accept garbage at $66 a ton, which is significantly less expensive than the $80 to $85 per ton that municipalities in the region are paying, he said.
And longer term, if the new technology proves it is workable, other similar biomass plants could be built elsewhere in the United States and around the world.