Weekly News Bulletin: Feb. 23-Mar. 1, 2010


EPA's Final RFS Includes More Biofuels, Sparks Debate; Questionable Science

The EPA's just-issued final renewable fuel standard (RFS) attributes more greenhouse gas (GHG) benefits to many types of biofuels compared to its earlier proposed RFS that now allows biofuels such as corn ethanol and soy biodiesel to qualify for credit under the standard where they had failed earlier. The agency claims that new science and data compelled a change to its calculation methods. That is leading critics including some environmentalists to accuse the agency of intentionally "dumbing down" the standard to allow "problematic" biofuels such as corn ethanol to qualify based upon overly optimistic assumptions. Others including some lawmakers are raising questions about the scientific data that EPA used in the final standard, with petroleum industry officials separately attacking some of the RFS' fuel blending mandates as "likely unlawful." The final rule requires refiners to blend almost 13 billion gallons of biofuels into the fuel supply in 2010, including 6.5 million gallons of cellulosic biofuel and over one billion gallons of bio-based diesel. The standard is intended to increase the use of biofuels to 36 billion gallons by 2022.

EPA met fierce opposition when it issued its proposed RFS last spring mainly because it found some kinds of biofuels would not meet the mandated reduction requirement. The agency later changed its analysis based on new assumptions it developed before issuing its final rule. For example, in the case of corn ethanol, the agency considered new studies that show crop yields increase more quickly in response to higher crop prices meaning that less land is needed to grow them. Both environmentalists and refiners accuse the agency of falling victim to politics in lieu of real science...Read More »



EnergySolutions CEO Quits Abruptly

EnergySolutions Inc. CEO Steve Creamer abruptly resigned last week from the helm of the nuclear waste services company he helped build. He is being replaced by company president Val John Christensen, effective immediately. Creamer also resigned as chairman of the board. That seat is being filled by Steven Rogel, one of EnergySolutions' independent directors and a one-time board chairman and CEO of Weyerhaeuser Co. The company and its new CEO claim the departure is part of an existing succession plan in place for some time, but it occurred just six days before Creamer was to preside over a Feb. 25 conference call to discuss the company's fiscal 2009 performance. Creamer's resignation also came just under two months after EnergySolutions CFO Philip O. Strawbridge, who helped with the company's initial public offering, stepped down to "pursue personal business interests." Strawbridge was replaced by Mark C. McBride, formerly EnergySolutions' senior vice president and corporate controller. Christensen said that there was no connection between the two departures. "Steve Creamer had the unique vision and energy to create a strong public company based in Utah that plays a critical role in America's nuclear industry," Christensen stated. "Steve will continue to be an important sounding board and a strong supporter of the company."

EnergySolutions operates a low-level radioactive waste storage site in Tooele County, Utah as well as a site in South Carolina. The company's efforts to import nuclear wastes from elsewhere in the U.S. and from outside the country have repeatedly put it at odds with state officials...Read More »



Covanta Holding: Modestly Better 4Q Profits amid Slight Decline in Revenue

Covanta Holding Corp.'s fourth-quarter earnings rose 3.6% as a small decrease in operating expenses offset a slight drop in revenue. The company reported net income of $28.4 million or $0.18 per share, compared to $27.3 million or $0.18 per share in the same period last year. Consolidated operating revenues decreased 2% to $407 million from $414 million in the prior year comparative period. Like other energy companies, Covanta was hurt by weak demand during the recession, lower prices paid for recycled metal that it collects, and lower energy prices resulting from lower competing natural gas prices. Nevertheless, its energy-from-waste business, which accounts for more than half of its sales, posted a 6.9% increase in revenue. Electricity and steam sales fell 12%. Looking forward, for the fiscal year 2010, the company said it expects earnings per share in the range of $0.55 to $0.75...Read More »



EPA Solid Waste Chief Announces Retirement

Matt Hale, EPA's top solid waste official, plans to retire effective March 31 after postponing his retirement several times in the past to work on the "many challenges" his agency faces in its Resource Conservation & Recovery Act (RCRA) program. As director of EPA's Office of Resource Conservation & Recovery, Hale worked on the agency's high-profile, delayed proposal to issue first-time RCRA rules for the disposal of coal ash and other coal combustion byproducts. According to a letter he sent announcing his plans on Feb. 18, "This was a difficult decision for me, and it's one that I've postponed more than once, so that I could continue to work on the many challenges we face in the RCRA program. But the time is now right for me to move on to other things -- primarily to full-time retirement."

Last fall, he told the Environmental Council of the States that the agency is legally barred from using its existing RCRA authority under subtitle D solid waste rules to regulate coal waste because agency attorneys determined EPA would have no federal authority to enforce such requirements. A hazardous classification under RCRA subtitle C is the only way to give EPA its enforcement authority, Hale said, while noting he believed subtitle D solid waste rules would be sufficiently protective of safety and the environment. The rule is currently stalled at the White House Office of Management & Budget due to fierce opposition from industry, some states and others to the agency's preferred "hybrid" approach to declare some forms of the waste as hazardous under RCRA...Read More »



IESI-BFC Quarterly Profit Down on Costs Related to Acquisition

Canadian waste management company IESI-BFC Ltd., formerly BFI Canada, reported a lower-than-expected quarterly profit on higher costs and forecast 2010 revenue below analysts' estimates. For the quarter ended Dec. 31, the company earned $9.9 million or 11 cents a share on revenue that rose 8 percent to $262.5 million, though excluding unusual expenses, it earned $15.2 million or 16 cents a share. Last year the company earned $9.9 million or 14 cents a share, and had adjusted earnings of $10.1 million or 15 cents, on revenue of $243.6 million. During the quarter, IESI-BFC announced plans to merge with Waste Services to create an integrated waste company with yearly revenue of about $1.5 billion. Closing is expected in the first quarter of 2010. For 2010, the company is anticipating revenue of $1.065 to $1.10 billion, resulting in adjusted EBITDA of $315 to $325 million and free cash flow of $135 to $145 million...Read More »



Waste Services Reports Slight Loss on Higher Revenue

Waste Services Inc., with operations in the US and Canada, reported a slight fourth quarter loss of $119,000, essentially even with last year's loss of $10.5 million, or $0.23 per share, that included a $10.3 million charge related to deferred acquisition costs. However, revenue rose 16 percent to $118.8 million, up from $102.4 million. The company announced in November a deal to merge with Toronto's IESI-BFC Ltd. creating a company with annual revenue of $1.5 billion, operations in six provinces and 11 states as well as Washington, D.C., and employing 6,000 people. Under terms of the deal, which is expected to close in the first quarter of 2010, IESI-BFC will issue 27.8 million shares to Waste Services shareholders, or about 23 percent ownership in the combined company, assuming an exchange ratio of 0.5833 shares of IESI-BFC for each Waste Services share. After the merger, the new firm will be headquartered in Toronto with 107 collection operations, 56 transfer stations, 29 landfill sites with three landfill gas-to-energy systems and 32 recycling facilities...Read More »



Delaware to Ban Yard Waste from Landfills

Regulators with Delaware's Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) have ordered a ban on yard waste disposal at central Delaware's main landfill which completes a statewide move meant to conserve landfill space. Delaware joins about 22 other states that currently ban yard waste from landfills. Many of those states are on the east coast where landfill capacity is strained, where tipping fees are higher, or where compostable wastes are in abundance. Officials at DNREC hope that banning yard waste from landfills will help push state's recycling rate, which has stubbornly hovered around 30 percent for the last two years, to 34 percent once implemented...Read More »



Sims Metal Earns Profit despite Big Drop in Sales

Sims Metal Management Ltd., the world's largest recycler of scrap metal, swung to a profit in the first half without the burden of one-time charges included in last year's numbers and despite a 39% decline in revenue. Net income was AUS$39.9 million ($35.9 million), or 21.2 cents per share, compared with a loss of AUS$79.4 million, or 43.7 cents, a year earlier. Revenue for the Sydney-based company fell to AUS$3.39 billion from AUS$5.58 billion in the prior year period. The company attributed the decline to lower average selling prices and shipments. "Our results for the first half of fiscal 2010 reflect the lingering effects of the global financial crisis," said Group CEO Daniel W. Dienst. Undeterred, Sims has ambitious plans to continue to grow its enterprise on the belief that "further industry consolidation [will] give Sims greater control over its cost base and ultimately lead to improved returns," according to Merrill Lynch analyst Ben Chan in recent Feb. 5 report...Read More »



American Ecology Changes Its Name to US Ecology, Inc.

Hazardous waste services company American Ecology Corp. said it has changed its name to US Ecology Inc. to better reflect its primary brand and simplify contracting and government reporting. American Ecology was formed as a holding company in 1984, but has always operated its facilities under the name US Ecology, the company said. Its shares will continue to trade under the ticker symbol "ECOL."...Read More »



University of British Columbia to Employ 2-MW Biomass System

Biomass gasification company, Nexterra Systems Corp. said it will install and demonstrate a unique, 2-megawatt on-site biomass-fuelled combined heat and power (CHP) system developed in conjunction with GE Power & Water's gas engine division, at the University of British Columbia (UBC). The system combines Nexterra gasification and syngas conditioning technologies with a GE high efficiency Jenbacher gas engine. It will use woody biomass as fuel for gasification into clean synthetic gas (or "syngas") that will be directly fired into the gas engine. The project has funding support from the Government of Canada's Clean Energy Fund, the BC Bioenergy Network (BCBN), and FPInnovations...Read More »


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