EPA's delays in proposing maximum achievable control technology (MACT) rules for boilers and incinerators, and in defining what materials are considered boiler fuel rather than incinerator waste, are causing companies to postpone major investments in renewable fuel plants including those that use wood waste. Facilities are more seriously considering switching to renewable energy sources, particularly in the face of looming first-time EPA climate change rules expected to be unfriendly to coal. Earlier this month, Georgia Power said that it was putting off the conversion of its coal-fueled Plant Mitchell in Albany, GA, to biomass until the EPA rules are better defined in April 2010. The power industry argues that the rule uncertainty is delaying investments during poor economic times when they are needed most while foregoing the related air quality improvements.
Some projects could become unviable if EPA imposes a stringent waste definition that captures many renewables or if the upcoming MACT rules are too onerous. Current projects are faced with uncertainty over the pending EPA waste definition and whether converted facilities will be regulated under Clean Air Act section 112 as a boiler, or under the more stringent section 129 of the air act as an incinerator, as well as uncertainty about the stringency of EPA's pending boiler MACT. The industry does not know whether EPA will define materials such as tree waste, wood chips, corn husks, peanut shells, switch grass and tires as fuel or as waste...Read More »
The EPA expects to issue a new renewable fuel standard "very soon," according to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson in remarks before the Washington Auto show. She said her agency is "working very hard to finalize the [new rule] as soon as possible." It is now at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for an interagency review. The rule would establish new, specific volume standards for cellulosic biofuel, biomass-derived diesel, advanced biofuel and total renewable fuel that must be used in transportation fuel each year. It would also include new definitions and criteria for both renewable fuels and the feedstocks to produce them, including greenhouse gas emission thresholds for renewable fuels. Last May, the EPA proposed implementing a rule to address changes in the Renewable Fuel Standard program as required by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. Under that legislation, the total renewable fuel standard for 2010 is 12.95 billion gallons. The requirement increases to 36 billion gallons by 2022...Read More »
Various state officials and their associations are lobbying the White House Office of Management & Budget (OMB) about the cost impacts they would face if EPA's proposed coal ash rule declares some forms of the ash as hazardous under a "hybrid" approach. The concern is it would tax limited state resources, environmental regulators and hinder the use of coal ash in road-building. It is unusual for state groups to go directly to OMB, particularly before EPA has actually proposed a rule, but OMB has accepted numerous meetings with the American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials (AASHTO), representing state DOTs, the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Association of State & Territorial Solid Waste Management Officials (ASTSWMO). The groups have also sent letters to EPA and the Department of Transportation (DOT) outlining their concerns, especially that a sometimes hazardous waste classification of coal ash would mean that millions more tons of material would have to be stored, handled and managed more carefully by environmental regulators under already-strained state budgets. They also contend that it could also adversely impact state transportation officials' ability to use the ash in concrete for road-building...Read More »
Waste Management, Inc. is investing in Harvest Power to expand its next generation organics recycling facilities across the US and Canada. As part of the agreement, Waste Management joins founding investors Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Munich Venture Partners, who also increased their investments in Harvest. Harvest has significant expertise in organic waste management, from building and operating large-scale organics recycling facilities to marketing compost products. It is currently developing aerobic and anaerobic digestion and composting technologies meant to accelerate the decomposition of organic materials to produce renewable energy. The process creates clean biogas that can be converted into electricity, liquefied natural gas, or compressed natural gas, while generating high quality, nutrient-rich compost products. The company said it owns and operates the largest food and yard waste composting facility in North America, located in Richmond, BC.
More than an investment, the deal is a strategic partnership that utilizes each company's unique strengths to divert an estimated 180 million tons of organic wastes generated each year in North America. Waste Management, with its market size and comprehensive waste services, especially in recycling and waste-to-energy, should help leverage Harvest Power's process. Tim Cesarek, managing director of Organic Growth at Waste Management said, "We want to extract more value from the materials we manage than anyone else in our industry through new and emerging processing and conversion technologies."...Read More »
Wedbush Securities has initiated coverage of Waste Management (WM) and Waste Connections (WCN) and is recommending them to investors. An analyst with the Los Angeles-based investment firm said "We view the waste industry, in general, as a defensive sector as municipal waste volumes typically remain stable through economic cycles and help generate stable levels of cash flows, especially as pricing discipline is maintained." While decreased volumes over the last year led the waste management industry to underperform the market, improving economic conditions are expected to give the industry an outsized boost. "We expect to see improvements in monthly and quarterly volumes, on a year/year basis, as comparisons get much easier late in 2010. We view companies operating in franchise markets and those with an extensive network of transfer stations favorably."...Read More »
The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) said an engineering study has revealed that the second phase of its Kingston, TN ash spill cleanup could cost as much as $741.1 million. TVA is looking at three alternatives for Phase II, which involves removing 2.4 million cubic yards of ash from Swan Pond Creek embayment and an adjacent 300 acres. The Dec. 22, 2008, spill at the federal utility's Kingston Fossil Plant released 5.4 million cubic yards (1 billion gallons) of coal ash sludge into the nearby Emory River, Swan Pond Creek and surrounding land. The first phase of the cleanup is ongoing and involves removing 3 million cubic yards of sludge from the Emory River and shipping it via rail to the Arrowhead landfill in Alabama and is expected to cost at least $428.5 million. The third phase of cleanup will be to remove ash that remains on the bottom of the Emory River and any that has migrated into the Clinch and Tennessee rivers. While the overall price for the entire three-phase cleanup is still estimated to be $933 million to $1.2 billion, there is still no cost estimate for the third phase since the full scope of that work is unknown...Read More »
WCA Waste Corporation plans to announce fourth quarter and year-end financial results after the close of the market on March 3, 2010. The company will host a conference call the following day at 8:30 a.m. (Eastern) to discuss them...Read More »