Weekly News Bulletin: Aug. 17-23, 2010


Landfill Tipping Fees Reach New Record, Despite Slow Times

Waste Business Journal reports that the average price to bury a ton of municipal solid waste (MSW) in US landfills has reached a record high of $43.99, up over 6% since last year, even amid the economic downturn. Meanwhile, landfill volumes, while down 4.8% since last year, are starting to come back. Last year's volumes were down over 12% year over year from the same period in 2008. The strongest gains were in the Northeast, where prices were up over 8%, the west (10%), and the Pacific states, in which prices rose by an average 7% year over year. According to James Thompson, publisher of Waste Business Journal, "the data show that landfill owners continue to exert pricing discipline, even in tough times."

"Increased consolidation of waste management firms is giving them more pricing power, especially with their enhanced ability to control the flow of wastes into their own landfills versus having to take waste collected to a competitor's facility. Company managers, goaded by rising operating costs, and mindful of painful lessons of the past when pricing was sacrificed for market share, are now focused more intensely on return on invested capital and appropriately pricing their ever more valuable landfill capacity," said Thompson...Read More »



Industry Attacks EPA for Retroactive RFS Rule

The petroleum industry is balking at the US EPA's attempt to mandate a renewable fuel standard (RFS) for biomass-based diesel for 2009 and 2010, arguing that it is illegal for the agency to make retroactive requirements for a period before the rule was finalized. EPA has outlined its legal defense of the RFS rule's application in an Aug. 9 brief in the lawsuit, National Petrochemical and Refiners Association v. EPA, which was filed March 24. The American Petroleum Institute filed a similar suit, and the cases have been consolidated.

Under the 2007 Energy Independence & Security Act, EPA was required to promulgate rules to implement the RFS by 2008 and establish the volumes of renewable fuels it would require in 2009. But EPA missed those two deadlines and instead issued its RFS proposal in May 2009 and did not issue its final rule, including volume mandates, until March this year. Since it was late, EPA combined the years 2009 and 2010 to which it applied its biomass-based diesel volume requirements for refiners. In its brief, EPA argues that the energy law required them to fulfill the mandates for each year and gave them discretion to combine years. According to the EPA brief, "EPA is not asking the Court to 'presume' that EPA has authority to require obligated parties to sell or introduce into commerce the 2009 applicable volume of biomass-based diesel. Congress gave EPA that authority." EPA also argues that its RFS approach is reasonable because it provided industry with flexibility in meeting the standard. The biofuel groups Growth Energy and the National Biodiesel Board have intervened on EPA's behalf. Oral arguments in the case are scheduled for Sept. 17...Read More »



Activists and Industry Critical of EPA Definition of Solid Waste Rule

EPA is getting criticism from all sides for its proposed definition of non-hazardous solid waste that will determine which, when burned as fuel, will be subject to more stringent pollution control requirements. Environmentalists say the rule contains numerous "unlawful" regulatory exemptions for boilers and such that would exacerbate toxic air pollution impacting communities' health and welfare. Industry officials complain that the exemptions do not go far enough to include all types of biomass, and secondary materials, and scrap tires. These materials, they argue, "will become increasingly important to utilities as renewable energy standards are adopted by more states and possibly applied to all states as a result of federal mandates." State air officials meanwhile say EPA's proposal should give states, not industry, authority to determine whether facilities must follow the more stringent incinerator rule or the more relaxed boiler rule. Environmentalists, industry, statesand others are offering their views through formal comments on EPA's proposal to define non-hazardous waste under the Resource Conservation & Recovery Act (RCRA)...Read More »



Plan to Ship Hawaiian Waste to Mainland Hits another Snag

Plans to ship waste from Hawaii across the Pacific Ocean to a landfill in Washington State have hit another major hurdle. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) withdrew a shipping permit that Hawaiian Waste Systems needs to ship nearly 20,000 tons of waste already received at its transfer station on Oahu. The plan was to divert as much as 100 tons of waste per day from the City and County of Honolulu's overburdened H-Power waste-to-energy plant and relieve the Waimanalo Gulch Landfill there which is running out of capacity. However, USDA began to have concerns that waste from Hawaii might contaminate the local ecology on the mainland, which the company disputed since it was packing the waste in shrink wrapped bales.

Ultimately, the USDA approved the deal which involves a 2,600-mile voyage from Hawaii to the port of Longview, WA where the waste was to be transloaded to rail cars destined for the Roosevelt Landfill. That led the Yakama Indian Tribe, whose land surrounds the landfill, to sue the USDA. In their complaint to the federal court, the Yakama cited fear of invasive plant species, microbes, insects and other pests from Hawaii that could attach to the waste cargo. The court issued a temporary restraining order on July 29 and USDA withdrew its approval. Now the Mayor of Honolulu is seeking to cancel its contract with the company so that it can move on to consider other alternatives. The total value of the three-year contract is estimated to be around $30 million in gross revenues, minus the cost of trans-shipment and landfill disposal fees...Read More »



New Study Touts Biomass Energy's Greenhouse Gas Benefits

A new study, funded in part by the Department of Energy (DOE), finds that burning biomass to generate electricity could offset up to 107 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions over 100 years, and even greater offsets could be achieved with additional measures involving a biomass fertilizer called "biochar." The new study, "Sustainable Biochar to Mitigate Global Climate Change," published in the journal Nature Communications, contradicts a study by the state of Massachusetts' energy department which argues that burning biomass creates more GHGs than an energy equivalent amount of coal. That report came under broad attack from the biomass industry and others. The new study quantifies the GHG-offset benefits from both burning biomass for electricity and from producing biochar using non-food sources of biomass, such as corn leaves and rice husks. Producing biochar, which involves high-temperature incineration to decompose biomass, would offset annually up to 1.8 billion metric tons of GHG emissions and up to 23 billion metric tons more GHG emissions than biomass energy alone in the first 100 years of production, according to the study. Biochar avoids more GHGs because it can be used as fertilizer to stimulate additional sources of biomass. For comparison, the study notes that human activities produce 15.4 billion metric tons of GHG emissions annually...Read More »



Clean Harbors CEO Sells $6.2 Million in Shares as Business Booms

Alan S. McKim, Chairman and CEO of Clean Harbors (Norwell, MA), is cashing in on the recent success of his company whose earnings surged in the second quarter on business related to the Gulf oil cleanup and strong internal growth. Documents filed with the SEC indicate that he sold 100,000 shares at an average price of $62.3 each on Aug. 9, 10, and 11, netting about $6.2 million. The sale decreased his holdings to 2.7 million shares, a 10.1% stake, down from a 10.3% stake. Clean Harbors shares have risen 6.6% over the past six months.

Clean Harbors provides environmental, energy and industrial services, including hazardous-material management and disposal, recycling and treatment, as well as chemical cleaning and material processing. Among its 50,000 clients are government agencies, refineries, chemical plants, and pulp and paper mills. The company has operations worldwide including China and the U.K. Revenue in 2009 was $1.1 billion...Read More »



New Energy Capital Announces First Closing of $100 Million Cleantech Fund

New Energy Capital Partners, which invests in clean energy projects, has created a second generation fund called NEC Cleantech Infrastructure Fund LP that will initially invest up to $100 million in small to midsized projects utilizing proven clean energy, clean water, and waste management technologies. The Fund was created in partnership with the CleanTech Alliance Fund which is managed by Piper Jaffray Private Capital in Minneapolis, MN. New Energy Capital has made previous investments in ethanol and biodiesel production facilities, biomass power facilities, and industrial cogeneration projects...Read More »



BlueFire Ethanol Changes Name to BlueFire Renewables

BlueFire Ethanol Fuels, Inc. (Irvine, CA), which converts waste into transportation fuels, is rebranding itself as BlueFire Renewables, Inc. BlueFire is developing two cellulosic ethanol refineries in Lancaster, CA, and Fulton, MS. Unlike traditional corn ethanol, which is made from corn kernel sugars, cellulosic ethanol can be made from sugars extracted from corncobs, grass clippings, tree branches and other hearty biomass. The company's 3.9 million gallon per year California refinery is fully permitted and will use waste from Southern California landfills as feedstock. But, financing the $120 million plant has been a challenge amid the economic downturn. Last year the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) guaranteed an $88 million loan to help finance the $350 million 19 million gallon per year Mississippi refinery which could begin construction this year for completion within 18 months. It will use mill residue and other woody biomass as feedstock. BlueFire continues to operate a pilot plant in Orange County, CA...Read More »



Avalon Holdings Reports Improved Second Quarter Results

Avalon Holdings Corp. (Warren, OH) reported a narrower loss for the second quarter, driven primarily by revenue growth in waste management services. For the quarter, the company reported a loss of $12 thousand or $0.01 per share compared to a loss of $263 thousand or $0.07 per share in the previous year. Revenues improved to $12.05 million from $8.37 million in the year ago period...Read More »


Sign up to receive our free Weekly News Bulletin