Weekly News Bulletin: May 4-10, 2010


EPA Proposes Competing Rules for Coal Ash

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced plans to regulate coal ash waste from power plants without designating how it would do so. Instead, the agency said it will take formal public comment. This would be in addition to that it has already received in the sixteen months since a spill at a Tennessee Valley Authority power plant in Kingston, TN spilled about a billion gallons of ash onto 300 acres of surrounding land in December, 2008. Utility companies fear that more aggressive regulation, including designating coal as hazardous, would add enormous costs without commensurate environmental benefit and eliminate its beneficial reuse in cement and other products. Activists argue that arsenic, selenium and other contaminants in coal ash threaten human health and the environment.

An EPA statement said one proposed option would have EPA enforce compliance with waste management and disposal and the other would set performance guidelines to be "enforced primarily through citizen suits." The statement said either proposal will "ensure for the first time that protective controls, such as liners and groundwater monitoring, are in place at new landfills to protect groundwater and human health. Existing surface impoundments will also require liners, with strong incentives to close the impoundments and transition to safer landfills, which store coal ash in dry form."...Read More »



Waste Management Reports Improving First Quarter

Waste Management, Inc. (Houston, TX) reported first quarter results that were helped by fewer charges and higher commodity prices. Revenue increased 4.4% to $2.94 billion mostly as a result of core price increases as volume was almost flat, but improving. Average recycling commodity prices more than doubled from the prior year. Operating margins widened to 14% from 13% a year ago. Chief Executive David P. Steiner said that he saw further signs of improvement in the business at the start of 2010. "In addition, we overcame several headwinds to produce solid first quarter results," he added. Those included severe winter weather, expenses related to increased stock options and a negative impact from fuel costs. The company reported a profit of $182 million, or $0.37 per share, up by 17 percent from $155 million, or $0.31 per share, a year earlier. Excluding items such as tax charges, earnings fell slightly to $0.41 per share from $0.42 per share. The company also reiterated its full-yearearnings guidance...Read More »



Republic Services' 1st Quarter Hit by Expenses and Economy

Republic Services' (Phoenix, AZ) first quarter profits fell by 42 percent resulting from a debt payment and other charges as well as a decline in volume. The company posted a profit of $65 million, or 17 cents a share, down from $113 million, or 30 cents a share, a year earlier. Excluding the debt payment, as well as restructuring and other charges, earnings rose to 41 cents from 38 cents. Revenue declined 5% to $1.96 billion. The company said core prices increased 2.2%, while volume dropped 7%. Commodity prices and fuel charges grew 1.8% and 0.3%, respectively. Don Slager, president and chief operating officer, said the company has begun to see signs of increased economic activity throughout the country...Read More »



Wheelabrator Completes $150 Million Buy of SPSA Burn Plant

Wheelabrator Technologies, a division of Waste Management, officially closed on its $150 million purchase of a 60 Megawatt waste-to-energy plant in Portsmouth, VA from the Southeastern Public Service Authority (SPSA), a government agency that handles most of the waste from its eight member cities and counties. The purchase also includes a neighboring sorting center that produces refuse derived fuel (RDF) for the burn plant. SPSA will use the proceeds to pay down debt to the Virginia Resource Authority (VRA) and other lending institutions, as well as to repay money owed to the City of Virginia Beach. The RDF gathers most of the 2,000 tons of waste per day generated in Norfolk, Chesapeake, Virginia Beach, Franklin, Suffolk, Southampton and Isle of Wight counties as well as Portsmouth. Wheelabrator owns and operates 16 waste-to-energy facilities and five independent power production facilities, with a combined electric generating capacity of 836 MW and total disposal capacity of 21,340 tons per day...Read More »



EPA Proposes Mercury Limits for Boilers and Incinerators

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued proposals on industrial boilers and solid waste incinerators that it said will cut mercury emissions in the US by more than half and significantly reduce other pollutants. Published in the April 29 Federal Register, the proposed rules among other things would define some "non-hazardous secondary materials" as solid waste, which would require units that burned those materials to be defined under section 129 of the Clean Air Act (CAA) as solid waste incineration units, rather than as fuel under less stringent standards for boilers under section 112 of the CAA. One of the materials that potentially could be redefined as solid waste is tire-derived fuel. Currently, TDF-burning units are treated as industrial boilers under the Clean Air Act.

EPA had said it would propose a new maximum achievable control technology (MACT) standard for boilers and redefine certain wastes as solid waste by April 29, 2010 mainly in response to a District of Columbia federal appeals court ruling in 2007 that said treating alternative-fuel-burning units as industrial boilers violated the plain intent of the CAA...Read More »



French Oil Giant Invests in Waste-to-Ethanol Co. Coskata

Coskata, which is working to produce ethanol from a variety of materials including biomass, agricultural and municipal wastes, said it has closed a round of equity financing including an investment from French oil company Total. Also participating in the transaction were several current Coskata investors, including Blackstone Clean Venture Partners, Khosla Ventures, Advanced Technology Ventures, Globespan Capital Partners and Arancia. Total will have a seat on Coskata's board. Financial details and the size of the stake were not provided.

US automaker GM also holds an ownership stake in Coskata, which uses proprietary microorganisms and bioreactors in a three-step conversion process to produce cellulosic ethanol. Coskata says the process requires no additional chemicals or pre-treatments to produce more than 100 gallons of ethanol per ton of dry material...Read More »



Industry Proposes EPA Oversight of Non-Hazardous Coal Ash

Industry groups are urging EPA to issue less stringent rules to regulate coal ash disposal by recommending a mechanism whereby EPA could retain federal enforcement authority as long as it remains classified as a non-hazardous solid waste. Both the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) and the Utility Solid Waste Activities Group (USWAG) have met with regulators to push the proposal, which they argue would preserve beneficial reuse of the material and avoid unnecessarily high costs of disposal as a hazardous waste. Under their plan, EPA would retain authority under section 4010(c) of RCRA to oversee state rules regulating solid wastes, much as the agency already does with MSW landfills and non-MSW landfills that may receive conditionally exempt small quantity generator (CESQG) hazardous waste.

RCRA section 4010(c) requires the EPA administrator to issue rules for facilities that may receive hazardous household waste or hazardous waste from small quantity generators...Read More »



POTWs Worried About Stricter Biosolid Incineration Rules

The wastewater industry wants the US EPA to create tiered standards for biosolids incineration under the Clean Air Act (CAA) since the agency appears to want to classify them as a non-hazardous solid waste, rather than a fuel, and therefore subject to stricter regulatory standards. Environmental groups argue that a tiered standard would illegally protect older facilities from regulation meant for them. Upcoming EPA rules, to be issued under the Resource Conservation & Recovery Act (RCRA), will determine which materials are waste and subject to more stringent regulation under a section 129 new source performance standard (NSPS), and which can be defined as fuel and allowed to be regulated under the less stringent section 112 maximum achievable control technology (MACT) program.

EPA appears to be moving forward to define biosolids as a RCRA nonhazardous waste. Industry would rather that EPA regulates sewage sludge according to how it is used. It would be considered fuel if burned in fluidized bed incinerators that have lower emissions. Otherwise, it would be considered a solid waste. There are about 270 incinerators across the country that collectively burn about 17 to 20 percent of the nation's biosolids, and are primarily located in areas where land application is difficult, e.g. colder climates and populated areas...Read More »



Industry Answers Activists' Challenge to EPA Methane Program

In response to activists' criticism of EPA's landfill methane program, two of the big waste industry trade associations have responded to argue that any changes to the program could jeopardize an important source of green energy. The Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) and the National Solid Wastes Management Association (NSWMA) sent joint comments to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson. SWANA Executive Director and CEO John H. Skinner stated, "The success of EPA's LMOP program in helping achieve greenhouse gas reductions is overwhelming. From 1990 to 2008, emissions from landfills dropped 15%." NSWMA President and CEO Bruce J. Parker concurred, "While our organizations support composting in an integrated solid waste management system, we believe that the capture and beneficial use of methane at landfills is a crucial component in reducing overall greenhouse gas emissions..."

Last month, a coalition of 10 environmental groups petitioned the EPA to restructure its voluntary landfill methane capture program so that it aims to reduce greenhouse gases (GHG) rather than emphasize its use as an energy resource...Read More »



Stericycle Posts Strong Quarter

Medical waste services company Stericycle (Lake Forest, IL) reported better than expected first quarter results. Revenue grew by 21 percent to $335 million largely due to the continued success of its higher-margin Steri-Safe products and recent acquisitions. Earnings were up by 20 percent to $48.6 million, or $0.56 per share, from $40.7 million, or $0.47 per share, in the year-earlier period. Recent acquisitions, including that of rival MedServe, contributed $28.9 million to the growth in revenues for the quarter. Consequently, transaction-related expenses and restructuring costs impinged on operating margins...Read More »



WCA Waste Reports Loss but Sees Bright Future

WCA Waste Corp. (Houston, TX) said "severe weather in several markets, integration costs and the economy" hurt first quarter earnings which resulted in a loss of $1.9 million, down from a loss of $490,000 in last year's first quarter. Nevertheless, revenue for the quarter improved to $52.3 million from $48.2 million in the year ago period. Tom Fatjo, chairman of WCA Waste Corp., was upbeat and said that his company "experienced a substantial upturn in March which provided 45% of the first quarter EBITDA." He also said, "The Company has begun to identify and successfully capture new revenue streams. We have been particularly successful in securing special waste disposal volume. We are pursuing other revenue opportunities such as coal ash disposal."...Read More »


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