Weekly News Bulletin: Mar. 9-15, 2010


Waste Management Joint Venture to Build Plasma Facility in Oregon

Waste Management's joint venture S4 Energy Solutions, formed with InEnTec in 2009, announced plans to build a waste-to-fuel facility at its landfill in Arlington, Oregon. Construction will begin this summer and is expected to be complete by the end of the year. The plant will employ a unique plasma gasification system to convert municipal solid waste into clean fuels and renewable energy. The so-called PEM system utilizes two phased gasification chambers to transform wastes into ultra-clean synthesis gas (syngas). The clean syngas may be converted into fuels such as ethanol and diesel, or industrial products like hydrogen and methanol, or used as a substitute for natural gas for heating or electricity generation. During the second stage of the PEM process, inorganic materials are transformed into environmentally inert products. "Plasma gasification has garnered a lot of attention recently," said Jeff Surma, president and chief executive officer of Houston-based S4 Energy Solutions. "We believe the project will demonstrate commercial viability of the new S4 integrated system, so that we can implement this technology at many other locations for a wide variety of applications."

Waste Management also began generating 6 megawatts (MW) of renewable electricity at the site in January with the startup of a new landfill gas-to-energy (LFGTE) facility there. The projects are helping the company towards meeting two of its sustainability goals: doubling its renewable energy production to an energy equivalent of powering two million homes by 2020, and investing in emerging technologies for managing waste...Read More »



OSHA Could Subject Waste Industry to Combustible Dust Rule

Waste industry groups are concerned that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is seeking to expand its forthcoming combustible dust rule to cover waste and recycling activities, especially since it represents a reversal from its previous position. The National Solid Wastes Management Association (NSWMA) observed that OSHA's Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) covering combustible dust on Oct. 2009 runs contrary to a previous understanding elaborated in a Sep. 2008 OSHA memo that said "transfer stations, materials recovery facilities (MRFs) and landfills have no history of combustible dust explosions."

But the October 2009 ANPR specifically names recycling as one of a handful of examples of "industries that may have combustible dust hazards." A table in the ANPR includes "waste management and remediation services," which according to OSHA has been associated with three combustible dust incidents since 1980. In response, NSWMA argues: "That a limited handful of niche facilities that happen to fall within the same six digit NAICS code that includes the thousands of solid waste transfer stations, MRFs and landfills that have operated for decades without any combustible dust incidents does not justify OSHA imposing new and costly regulations on those mainstream solid waste and recycling facilities."...Read More »



EPA Criticized Over Environmental Justice Methodology

The EPA is drawing criticism for its recently released "Draft Environmental Justice Methodology" for analyzing the potential impacts of its controversial definition of solid waste (DSW) rule on low-income and minority communities. During a Feb. 23 EPA roundtable discussion, Vernice Miller-Travis, a former member of the agency's National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC), said "the draft EJ Methodology will need serious revision if it's going to a pass the test of encouraging recycling." Under the proposed methodology, EPA would consider it a benefit from an environmental justice standpoint if the DSW rule leads to hazardous materials being recycled rather than sent for disposal or destruction at facilities more likely, the reasoning goes, to be located in minority communities. However, Miller-Travis argues that the premise ignores the fact that the recycling facilities receiving these materials are even more likely to be located near low-income and minority communities. Moreover, communities that host recycling facilities are less likely to be involved in siting them if materials that once were subject to rigorous permit proceedings are exempted under the rule. "This DSW exclusion will give the community no understanding of and no voice in saying where reclamation materials are sent," she says...Read More »



US Ecology Posted Lower 4Q Profit on Sharply Lower Revenue

US Ecology, Inc., formerly American Ecology Corp., said fourth-quarter sales and income fell by nearly half. Net income fell to $2.64 million or $0.15 per share, down from $5.25 million or $0.29 per share in the fourth quarter last year. Revenue declined 46% to $24 million compared with the year-ago quarter, primarily due to lower disposal revenue stemming from the end of the firm's Honeywell and Molycorp projects coupled with lower transportation revenue associated with those projects. In aggregate, waste volumes declined 49% to 132,000 tons from the previous year's quarter. While recurring revenue fell by 10%, event-driven business fell by 43% particularly as governmental and private cleanup activities, along with brownfield redevelopment projects, have been hurt by the economy and depleted budgets. Lower waste volumes put pressure on profitability because of the high operating leverage in US Ecology's business. Nevertheless, all four of the company's disposal operations remain profitable. Looking forward, the company expects to benefit from the government's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, although the timing of any cleanup activities remains unknown. U.S. Ecology manages and disposes radioactive, PCB, hazardous and nonhazardous wastes...Read More »



Idaho Reports Sharply Lower Hazardous Wastes in 2009

Perhaps as an indication of the economy, the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) reports a significant drop in hazardous waste generated in the state as well as those exported from other states in 2009. In its annual report to the governor, the DEQ said hazardous wastes generated in the state fell by 29% to 5,055 tons from 7,082 tons in 2008. Hazardous wastes imported from as far away as New Jersey, which also sends the most, fell by an even further, by 34%, to 547 thousand tons from 825 thousand tons the year before. DEQ attributes the sustained decrease to the economic downturn and continued waste reduction practices implemented by businesses and hazardous waste generation facilities in the state and elsewhere...Read More »



WCA Waste Narrows 4Q Loss despite Revenue Decline

WCA Waste Corp. (Houston, TX) reported a net loss of $2.3 million on $46.2 million in revenue during the fourth quarter of 2009. For all of 2009, the company had a net loss of $3.3 million on $194.1 million in revenue compared to a net loss of $31.8 million on $208 million in revenue in 2008. "2009 was a challenging year because of the economy," noted company Chairman Tom Fatjo. "Our management was very responsive to this decrease in revenue and as a result our cost of services decreased by $11.8 million. This resulted in an adjusted EBITDA margin of 26.5% in 2009 compared to 25.9% in 2008. WCA recently decided to aggressively pursue new market opportunities. On December 31, 2009 we closed the Live Earth acquisition which we expect to add approximately $30 million additional revenue in 2010."...Read More »



Veolia Environnement Profit up 44% Even with Slight Drop in Sales

Veolia Environnement (Paris, France) posted a 44% increase in net profit even as revenue dropped, as cost-cutting and asset divestitures helped the company weather the adverse economy. Net profit rose to 584.1 million euros ($793 million) for 2009 compared from 405.1 million euros in 2008. Revenue fell 3.4% to 34.55 billion euros. Veolia is a provider of environmental management services, which include water and wastewater services. Revenues from its Water Division were 12.55 billion euros, compared to 12.56 billion euros a year ago. Environmental Services division revenues declined to 9.05 billion euros from 9.97 billion euros in the prior year. Energy Services posted revenues of 7.08 billion euros, down from 7.45 billion euros last year. Revenues from Transport grew to 5.86 billion euros from last year's 5.79 billion euros.

"The objective of 3 billion euros in asset divestments over the period 2009-2011 is maintained and the global efficiency program [will rise] to 250 million euros in cost savings for 2010. The Group reiterates its commitment to generate positive free cash flow(*) after the payment of the dividend in 2010." the company noted...Read More »



City of St. Joseph Partners with KCP&L for Landfill Gas

The city of St. Joseph, Missouri announced a partnership with Kansas City Power & Light (KCP&L) to develop a landfill gas-to-energy project at the city's 90-acre landfill. KCP&L will design and construct the facility with help from engineering firm Burns & McDonnell that will add 49 new wells to 12 existing wells at the landfill and employ a Caterpillar 1.6 MW turbine reciprocating engine to generate electricity. That is expected to be enough to power 1,000 homes. Construction should be complete by early 2011. According to J. Bruce Woody, the city's public works director, the landfill has 50 to 60 years of remaining capacity...Read More »


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