Weekly News Bulletin: Feb. 3-9, 2009


Wheelabrator to Build New Waste-to-Energy Plant in Frederick County, MD

Wheelabrator Technologies, a division of Waste Management, announced that it will build a new waste-to-energy facility in Frederick County, MD, the first new greenfield waste-to-energy plant constructed in more than a decade. The Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority will own the facility which will serve Frederick and Carroll counties under a long-term service agreement between the Authority and the counties. The plant will be designed to process 1,500 tons per day of municipal solid waste with an electric generating capacity of 55 megawatts, enough to power 60 thousand homes...Read More »



EPA's Jackson Promises Stronger Risk Programs, More Transparency

Incoming EPA administrator Lisa Jackson in a Jan. 23 memo to agency staff, listed among her top five priorities, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving air quality, managing chemical risks, cleaning up hazardous waste sites, and protecting America's water. "More than 30 years after Congress enacted the Toxic Substances Control Act [TSCA], it is clear that we are not doing an adequate job of assessing and managing the risks of chemicals in consumer products, the workplace and the environment," Jackson wrote in the memo. "It is now time to revise and strengthen EPA's chemicals management and risk assessment programs."

She also affirmed her commitment to the so-called "Fishbowl memo," the 1983 EPA transparency policy reaffirmed by every president but the most recent Bush administration. Former Bush EPA Administration Stephen Johnson drew fire from former House energy committee Chairman John Dingell (D-MI) for not issuing such a memo. However, the group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility is criticizing Jackson's memo to staff, saying she needs to do more than "embrace" the fishbowl memo and instead needs to make it formal agency policy. Jackson's memo also specifies that her transparency policy will require EPA to "reach out to all stakeholders fairly and impartially," "consider the views and data presented carefully and objectively "and" fully disclose the information that forms the bases for our decisions."

Jackson added that the agency "must take special pains to connect with those who have been historically underrepresented in EPA decision making, including the disenfranchised in our cities and rural areas, communities of color, native Americans, people disproportionately impacted by pollution, and small businesses, cities and towns working to meet their environmental responsibilities...Read More »



Suit Filed against Flow Control, Déjà vu in Clarkstown, NY

Returning to the site of the Supreme Court's famous 1994 flow control decision, private haulers including C&A Carbone, have filed a $75 million federal lawsuit seeking to overturn a Rockland County, NY ordinance that designates specific facilities as the sole recipients of county wastes. Plaintiffs charge that the policy stifles competition which raises costs to taxpayers, and violates the high court's 1994 decision in C&A Carbone v. Town of Clarkstown, NY that ruled the municipality's designation of a private company as the sole recipient of waste was tantamount to a violation of the dormant commerce clause of the US Constitution, putting an undue burden on interstate trade. However, the high court revised its ruling two years ago in its United Haulers v. Oneida-Herkimer decision which made the exception for facilities owned by the municipalities themselves. Similarly, the Rockland Solid Waste Management Authority owns the waste facilities but contracts their operation to private companies. The new Carbone lawsuit claims the county policy favors private contractors who are running the facilities - such as Joseph Miele of Miele Sanitation - at the expense of other private businesses. The authority argues that it followed the Herkimer decision, that waste disposal is traditionally a municipal service, and that Carbone and other companies were free to bid for the work of operating the authority's facilities...Read More »



Bill Gates Raises His Bet on Republic Services

Bill Gates' Cascade Investments has again raised its stake in Republic Services to a total of 43.89 million shares equal to an 11.6% share. According to filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Gates' private investment fund bought 3.9 million shares of Republic Services from Jan. 13 through Jan. 26 for $448.6 million. Republic recently completed a $6.1 billion, all-stock buyout of former rival Allied Waste Industries. Before the deal, Gates owned 20.0% of Republic. Strong cash flows of the business make it an attractive haven in turbulent economic times. Free cash flow at Republic grew 10.8% in the company's third quarter, to $66.5 million, from $60.0 million in the year-earlier period. Republic earned $88.7 million on sales of $834.0 million in the quarter. Gates reported holding about 39.98 million Republic shares Jan. 15...Read More »



Court Rejects GE's Argument Against Cleaning up Hudson River

A federal court recently rejected General Electric Co.'s challenge of a superfund law requiring it to clean up polluted sites, including its controversial site along the Hudson River in upstate New York. U.S. District Judge John Bates in Washington rejected the company's argument that the agency violated its due process rights under the U.S. Constitution in the way it implemented the statute. "The court rejects GE's novel, but considerable challenge," Bates said in his order. GE was ordered in 2002 to dredge pollutants, including PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, that its plants in Hudson Falls and Fort Edward dumped into the river, a directive that was delayed because of disagreements over how the cleanup should take place. The EPA has said that GE discharged as much as 1.3 million pounds of PCBs into the Hudson River from 1947 to 1977 and estimates the entire cleanup will cost as much as $750 million. As part of the PCB cleanup, sediments will be removed by dredges and transported by barge to nearby processing facilities now nearing completion. They will then be shipped by rail for disposal at a facility in Andrews, Texas, owned by Waste Control Specialists LLC...Read More »



Covanta Energy to Build $575 Million Waste-to-Energy Plant in Wales, UK

Covanta Energy is investing $570 million to construct a 70-MW power plant in Merthyr, Wales that will used waste as fuel. The project, Brig y Cwm, will consume approximately 825,000 tons of waste per year and is set to commence operation in 2014. Covanta has been expanding its investments in biomass projects across the United States. In December the company completed its acquisition of two biomass energy facilities in Maine having a combined capacity of 49 MW...Read More »



Covanta to Release Fourth Quarter Earnings on February 26

Covanta Holding Corp. plans to release fourth quarter and year-end financial results after the market closes on Thursday, February 26, 2009. The company will also host a conference call to discuss and answer questions the following day at 8:30 a.m. (Eastern)...Read More »



Detroit Cancels Synagro Deal in Wake of Bribery Guilty Plea

The City of Detroit cancelled its $1.2 billion sludge treatment contract with Synagro Technologies Inc. shortly after a company official pleaded guilty to bribing city officials. In 2007 Synagro took over the contract from another company, Minergy after the City Council approved the deal by a vote of 5-4. The FBI got involved and for several months investigated accusations of kickbacks. Last week, a former Synagro vice president, James Rosendall, pleaded guilty to bribery, indicating that he gave cash, gifts, favors and free flights on a private plane to a handful of officials. The plea implicated at least one unnamed council member. Detroit Mayor Kenneth Cockrel, Jr. said Detroit officials had discussions with Synagro President Robert Boucher and mutually agreed to end the contract. A statement by the city said Boucher agreed not to pursue any legal action against the city...Read More »



Oshkosh Posts $20 million First Quarter Loss despite Strong Sales of Refuse Vehicles

Despite a 25% increase in refuse vehicle sales for the quarter, Oshkosh Corp. said sales of other types of vehicles, especially those related to construction were off by enough to push overall first quarter sales down by 7%.to $1.4 billion. That pushed earnings to a net loss of $20.6 million, or $0.28 per share, compared to income to $37.3 million for the same quarter last year. The company also said that insufficient earnings violate the firm's credit agreement which will require them so seek a costly amendment in the second quarter. While the company's access equipment subsidiary, JLG, is struggling, prompting the firm to impose workforce reductions and one-to two-week unpaid furloughs for staff, its defense, fire apparatus and domestic refuse collection vehicle businesses continue to post solid results...Read More »



SPSA Presents New Plan to Avert Financial Crisis

The Southeastern Public Service Authority (SPSA), which has lately spurned takeover proposals from a New York firm, recently unveiled its own plan to raise desperately needed operating funds. The four step plan includes using a $7.5 million loan, initially acquired for capital expenses, for operating expenses instead. This would give SPSA time to restructure its $240 million debt in order to lower its shorter term obligations which in turn would give them time to sell its waste-to-energy plant, proceeds of which would pay down debt. The authority estimates that by delaying principal, they can save more than $12.4 million in fiscal year 2009 and $18.1 million in fiscal year 2010. Properly deployed, the plan would help them avoid having to raise tipping fees at its facilities from $104 to $245 per ton. SPSA executive director Bucky Taylor has said that failing to raise the fee would likely mean SPSA would not have enough cash to survive another 60 days...Read More »



ISRI Acquires International Association of Electronics Recyclers

The Institute for Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) recently acquired the International Association of Electronics Recyclers (IAER), creating a new Electronics Division to ensure electronics recyclers have a strong voice within the organization. The new division will have three permanent seats on the ISRI Board of Directors. "This acquisition unifies the voice of the electronics recycling industry, strengthens ISRI's Electronics Division and substantially increases the resources and services available to IAER members, who we are thrilled to welcome our newest ISRI members," said Robin Wiener, ISRI president, in a press release. "ISRI has long recognized the great strides and accomplishments reached by the IAER. By unifying the voice of our associations, we will be stronger."...Read More »



IST Energy Announces Compact System to Convert Waste to Clean Energy

A Waltham, MA -based technology company IST Energy has developed a small-scale waste to energy system reduces waste by 95% and creates energy without any carbon release. The mobile units can be placed on site, each of which can process three tons of waste per day and produce enough energy to power and heat a 200,000 square foot building, enough to reduce annual energy costs by an estimated $250,000. Ideal customers include universities, hospitals, malls, resorts, amusement parks, arenas, stadiums, large apartment complexes, office buildings and industrial plants and municipal transfer stations...Read More »



Rentech Says Air Force is testing its Synthetic Jet Fuel Made from Biomass

Los Angeles, CA-based Rentech, Inc., which owns a proprietary technology to convert synthesis gas from biomass and fossil resources into hydrocarbons, announced that the US Air Force has purchased its ultra-clean synthetic jet fuel for performance and emissions testing in a turbine engine. The Air Force has already conducted tests to confirm that the Company's synthetic jet fuel meets the Air Force's specifications for synthetic fuels. Rentech claims that its fuels are biodegradable, cleaner-burning, have a longer shelf life and lower density than traditional petroleum-derived fuels. The lower density lowers operating costs or allows aircraft to carry heavier payloads with the same weight of fuel when compared to traditional jet fuel. The Air Force is the single largest consumer of fuel in the Department of Defense, using approximately 2.6 billion gallons or $5.6 billion of jet fuel in 2007...Read More »


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