Weekly News Bulletin: May 18-24, 2010


EPA Announces Rule for Major Greenhouse Gas Emitters

The EPA has unveiled a final rule for regulating major emitters of greenhouse gases (GHGs), like coal-fired power plants, under the Clean Air Act (CAA). Beginning in July 2011, new sources of at least 100,000 tons of GHGs per year and any existing plants that increase emissions by 75,000 tons will have to seek permits. In the first two years, the EPA expects the rule to affect about 15,550 sources, including coal-fired plants, refineries, cement manufacturers, solid waste landfills and other large polluters said Gina McCarthy, the agency's assistant administrator. Last fall, EPA said it was looking to set the bar at 25,000 tons per year, which would have imposed the permit requirement on smaller entities such as family farms and large apartment buildings. Intense industry lobbying, including that from the waste industry, seems to have influenced the agency's decision. Last year the EPA issued a finding that carbon dioxide and other GHGs posed a threat to human health, which under the CAA allowed the agency to regulate them. The Obama administration later made it clear that the finding was meant to push Congress to supersede the agency by passing its own climate change legislation...Read More »



Warren Buffet Buys More Shares of Republic Services

Billionaire investor Warren Buffet, according to first quarter filings with the SEC, has increased his holdings in Republic Services Inc. by 30.6%. As of March 31, his company Berkshire Hathaway held 10.8 million shares in Republic, up from 8.3 million shares in the prior quarter. He initially invested in the waste company with a purchase of 3.6 million shares in November last year evidently taking a page from his billionaire friend Bill Gates whose Cascade Investment LLC owns a sizable 15% stake. Similarly, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the world's largest private philanthropic fund, holds about 15.7 million shares in Waste Management, Inc...Read More »



Judge Allows California County to Restrict Waste Imports

In what could complicate matters for Waste Connections, a Superior Court judge in Solano County CA ruled in favor of a voter initiative to limit out-of-county waste. The ruling upholds a voter-approved "Measure E," passed in 1984 but never enforced, that restricts any Solano County landfill from accepting more than 95,000 tons per year of waste from outside the county. The county is home to Waste Connections' Potrero Hills Landfill, which it bought from Republic Services in March of last year and represents a significant investment for the company. Waste Connections is expected to file an appeal which will generate an automatic stay of the judge's decision. That is significant since Potrero Hills receives about 850,000 tons per year of waste from surrounding counties. The case is being closely watched for its implications to other communities across the country that might seek to restrict waste imports or seek further justification for doing so, and whether the courts apply the Commerce Clause of the US Constitution to the case. Waste Connections' CEO Ron Mittelstaedt is optimistic that the decision to uphold Measure E represents a way of "punting" the real decision to the state legislature where he thinks it is best handled...Read More »



New York Lawmakers Working on E-Waste Bill

New York state lawmakers are close to passing the nation's strictest electronics waste (e-waste) recycling law that would require consumer electronics manufacturers to recover and recycle 100 million pounds of material per year within five years. The bills being reconciled in both houses of state government would preempt any city or local e-waste provisions, voiding a controversial and long-contested New York City law. The consumer electronics industry filed a lawsuit against the city in federal court in Manhattan asking a judge to suspend that law, arguing that it would require manufacturers to set up an unreasonably expensive door-to-door collection system, among other complaints.

The New York Senate and Assembly are at odds over whether manufacturers can charge governments and nonprofits for e-waste collection. The Assembly version would require manufacturers to provide free collection while the Senate version would allow them to charge anyone other than state and local government. Both versions of the bill require that manufacturers pay for initiatives to keep e-waste out of landfills, expand the scope of products that must be collected, and target a larger volume of material: 3 pounds per capita, rising to 5 pounds per capita in later years...Read More »



E-Waste Collection Rates Rising for Third Straight Year

E-waste collection rates rose by an average 8 percent last year, representing the third straight year of increases according to a study by the National Center for Electronics Recycling (NCER). Their per capita collection index (PCCI) is an annual measure of collection volumes of used electronic equipment in six ongoing electronics recycling programs across the US. NCER said the rate of increase would have been higher had it not been for a shift in CRT glass markets that delayed the submission of data from California. NCER's Executive Director Jason Linnell said of the results that "it's safe to say that the increase means consumers are both becoming more aware of the need to properly recycle their unwanted electronics and finding increased availability of collection programs." However, he also said it was hard to say whether the current trend was more indicative of increased public awareness, more rapidly evolving technology, the result of pent up demand from previous years, or some combination thereof...Read More »



Clean Harbors Expects Oil Spill Cleanup to Boost Revenue by 20%

Clean Harbors (Norwell, MA) said that it expects its work related to cleanup of the gulf oil spill to boost second quarter performance by 15 to 20 percent. The company said it was currently involved in many aspects of the oil spill response, including containment, removal, disposal and recycling of the recovered oil after Transocean's Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and sank on April 21...Read More »



P&G Launches Scorecard to Drive Sustainability from its Suppliers

The Procter & Gamble Company (P&G) has launched what it calls a Supplier Environmental Sustainability Scorecard as a means to rate and enhance its own environmental stewardship by encouraging sustainability practices throughout its value chain. Wal-Mart, IBM and Kaiser Permanente have launched similar sustainability scorecards for their supply chains. P&G, with nearly $80 billion in annual revenue, is likely to make a big impact and is making its scorecard available to other companies in the hope of its becoming an industry standard. Bob McDonald, P&G Chairman of the Board, President and Chief Executive Officer, commented: "The launch of the Supplier Environmental Sustainability Scorecard represents the next step in P&G's commitment to environmental sustainability and reflects the Company's holistic, end-to-end supply chain strategy." The scorecard relies on accepted worldwide measurement standards and science, including protocols from the World Resources Institute. Suppliers will have a full year to prepare to report their data before the rating can adversely impact their supplier rating with P&G...Read More »



Republic Services Opens Oregon's First Food Composting Site

After a six month pilot project, Republic Services recently upgraded one its composting facilities to a full-scale food waste recycling operation. The company hails its facility in Corvallis, OR as the first of its kind in the state. "We've been recycling wood waste and yard debris on this site for 19 years," said Jeff Andrews, Republic's senior vice president, West Region, in a press release. "Harvesting food waste as a reusable resource is the next frontier in recycling." According to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, nearly 15 percent of the material landfilled in the state is food waste. The upgraded operation employs aerated static pile technology which captures and controls emissions from the composting process using a negative air system and requires a smaller footprint than for other methods that in turn, reduces the amount of storm water runoff...Read More »



Cleanup Complete at Largest Hazardous Landfill in the West

Chemical Waste Management, which owns the Kettleman Hills landfill in central California, said that it had cleaned up contaminated areas cited by federal investigators. The landfill, which is the largest hazardous waste facility in the West, has been subject increasing scrutiny by activists and government ever since a study by a local environmental justice group called Greenaction, found that five out of twenty children born in the area from September 2007 to November 2008 had birth defects including cleft lips and palates. However, state health officials subsequently found nothing unusual about the rate of infant birth defects but said the findings were preliminary. Last month the US EPA said the landfill had violated the Toxic Substances Control Act by improperly disposing of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), chemicals that have been linked to cancer and other health effects...Read More »



US Market for Biomass Power Grew Just 1.2% per Year from 2001 to 2009

A new report says the US biomass Market, which had installed capacity of 9,686 MW in 2009, grew by just 1.2% per year from 2001 when capacity was 8,835 MW. The report by research firm Global Data blamed a number of factors for the lackluster growth, including the expiration of valuable contracts signed under the Public Utilities Regulatory Policy Act (PURPA) by utility companies, and high feedstock costs owing to poor infrastructure. However, the US government has responded with financial incentives to offset the typically high capital costs, although some of this includes tax credits that make little difference in tight credit markets. Although, government mandates, including banning certain wastes from landfills has helped to increase the availability of viable feedstocks including certain agricultural, municipal (MSW) and industrial wastes that are suitable to biomass conversion. In 2009, wood waste accounted for 78.9% while MSW accounted for 17% of total biomass power generation in the US.Covanta Holding Corp. is the market leader with an 11.3% share of installed capacity, followed by Wheelabrator Technologies with 8.7% and CMS Energy Corp. with a share of 1.7%...Read More »



TVA Plans to Store Portion of Coal Ash from Cleanup Onsite

In phase two of its cleanup, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) will permanently store onsite more than 2 million cubic yards of coal ash from a massive spill at its Kingston, TN plant in December 2008. The decision to store it onsite versus landfilling it elsewhere, including at a site in Alabama that is already home to 3 million cubic yards excavated in phase 1 of the cleanup, was driven by cost and safety concerns. Some estimates of offsite disposal involving both trains and trucks to haul the waste were as high as $740 million. The TVA statement said dry ash will instead be stored onsite on a "foundation of sand, gravel and geo fabric enclosed by an underground perimeter wall constructed of cement mixed with subsurface soil to divert drainage and control runoff." However, it will not have a liner. While the spilled coal ash contained arsenic and potentially carcinogenic heavy metals, it is not regulated as hazardous waste. EPA is currently deciding to what extent it will apply hazardous waste standards to coal ash disposal...Read More »



Avalon Holdings Says Bad Winter and Economy Hurt First Quarter

Avalon Holdings Corp. said first quarter revenues fell to $8.3 million from $8.8 million last year. Its net loss increased to $.6 million, or $.15 per share, from a net loss of $.4 million, or $.11 per share last year. The company's new CEO, Steven M. Berry said that "Revenue and earnings in the first quarter were impacted by the severe weather in several markets and the economy during a quarter which is typically challenging within the industry. However, we experienced an upturn in March which provides optimism for future quarters."...Read More »


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