Weekly News Bulletin: Sep. 15-21, 2010


Harrisburg, PA Brush with Default Centers on Incinerator

The City of Harrisburg, PA's waste-to-energy plant is at the center of the city's budget crisis involving a skipped $3.29 million debt service payment and fears that the action could precipitate trouble in the larger public finance markets. Unlike most of the nation's waste-to-energy plants, many of which were constructed in the late 80s and early 90s and whose bonds are mostly paid off, the Harrisburg Resource Recovery Facility is $288 million in the hole; the result of years of unrealistic expectations and poor decisions. The facility is owned by the Harrisburg Authority which owns all of the city's utilities and has missed debt service payments in the past. The city, which has backed the bonds, is on the hook for $68 million in debt service owed this year alone. That is more than the city's entire city general fund budget. The 800 ton-per-day plant which was built in 1972 and is the oldest in the country had numerous operating problems from the start. It was shut down in 2003 by regulators for environmental violations at a time when it was already heavily in debt. The city refinanced to pay for retrofits which went uncompleted when the city's contractor filed bankruptcy leaving the Authority with another $125 million and still no operating plant. More recently, Covanta Energy took over and has significantly improved its operations but the debt remains...Read More »



EPA Promises New Waste Definition Rulemaking

In a settlement with environmental groups, the US EPA is committing to propose a new rule revising its controversial regulatory definition of solid waste (DSW) by June 2011. EPA and environmentalists filed a joint brief on Sept. 10 that asks the federal appellate court reviewing the rule in the case Sierra Club v. EPA to accept a procedural settlement and hold it in abeyance until after EPA completes its regulatory actions. EPA's finalized DSW rule, made during the Bush administration, aimed to encourage recycling by providing exemption to its Resource Conservation & Recovery Act (RCRA) regulations, but Earthjustice, on behalf of the Sierra Club, filed suit over the rule in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit alleging that the exemptions were too liberal and could encourage dangerous "sham" recycling at facilities more likely to be located near low income and minority communities. In May 2009 EPA said it would consider elaborating how recyclers would berequired to contain materials and notify communities about their intention to take advantage of the regulatory exemption. The latest settlement responds to environmentalists' impatience with EPA's timeline for action but does not address pending industry suits over the rule, including one from the American Petroleum Institute that argues for exemption of petroleum refinery catalysts from RCRA regulation...Read More »



Industry Critical of EPA Boiler and Incinerator Rules

Industry groups are critical of EPA's proposed air toxics rules for incinerators and boilers and say that if implemented, they would have a significantly negative impact on the economy. In recently filed comments, industry groups outline a number of criticisms. They could be considering a lawsuit or asking lawmakers to intervene. EPA has proposed maximum achievable control technology (MACT) standards for area source and larger major source industrial, commercial and institutional boilers and new source performance standards (NSPS) for commercial and industrial solid waste incinerators. EPA has also proposed a new definition of non-hazardous solid waste for the purposes of determining whether facilities that burn waste trigger the boiler or incinerator rules...Read More »



US Ecology Buys Stablex of Canada for $80 Million

US Ecology (Boise, ID), formerly American Ecology, signed an agreement to buy Stablex Canada, a division of Marsulex Inc. (Toronto, ON), for C$80 million. Stablex operates a hazardous waste processing and disposal facility in Blainville, QC, near Montreal, serving industrial markets in eastern Canadian and the northeastern U.S. The rail-served facility, which has been operating since 1983, employs about 150 and generated revenue of C$38.5 million in 2009. US Ecology is funding the purchase with cash and debt under a $75 million revolving acquisition credit facility. The transaction is expected to close on October 31 and is subject to customary closing conditions, including a purchase price adjustment based on working capital. Even more recently, the company announced another transaction to buy a waste treatment plant in Vernon, CA for $8.65 million from Siemens Water Technologies Corp. The facility provides hazardous liquid waste services to the Southern California industrial market and has generated revenue of between $9 million and $11 million annually over the last several years. That deal is expected to close by the end of the year...Read More »



Clean Harbors Deploys Solar Array atop Closed Landfill

As part of an initiative to commercially develop some of its many properties, special waste services company Clean Harbors (Norwell, MA) announced plans to erect 6,500 solar panels atop a now closed hazardous landfill in Gloucester county, NJ. The $7.2 million array will cover 90 acres of the site with an array of 6-by-3 foot panels to generate 1.5 megawatts of electricity or enough to power 1,100 homes. The project was made more appealing by state incentives to encourage renewable energy development called Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SRECs). SRECs are funded by utility ratepayers and traded like commodities. Leading the effort for the project is Bill Geary who was appointed president of Clean Harbors Development, LLC when it was formed in December 2008 to take advantage of immediate opportunities to develop portions of the 16,000 acres of property the company owns throughout North America...Read More »



Rentech to Use Honeywell Technology in California Waste-to-Fuel Plant

Waste-to-fuels company Rentech, Inc. has chosen a Honeywell company technology for use at its renewable energy center, to be built in Rialto, CA that will convert biomass into diesel fuel and electricity. The center is expected to produce 640 barrels-per-day of liquid fuel and 35 megawatts of base-load electricity, enough to power about 30,000 homes. In August 2009, eight airlines signed a multi-year agreement with Rentech to together purchase up to 1.5 million gallons per year of diesel from the Rialto Project for use in ground service equipment at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). The Rialto Project is scheduled to start up in late 2012. The plant will employ the Rentech-SilvaGas biomass gasification system to produce syngas from biomass that will be converted into ultra-clean hydrocarbons and utilize the Honeywell UOP technology to upgrade the hydrocarbons to ultra-clean jet and diesel fuel as well as specialty waxes and chemicals...Read More »



Covanta Converts Old Money Waste to Energy

Covanta Energy (Fairfield, NJ) said it will take paper-making waste from Crane & Co., which supplies paper for US currency, and convert it to energy at its adjacent plant in Pittsfield, MA. Covanta's Pittsfield Resource Recovery Facility already provides steam to drive Crane's manufacturing processes and heat its buildings, having done so since 1981. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MADEP) has now approved a demonstration for processing Crane's old papermaking waste that dates from the 1980s. If the pilot project is successful, Covanta said it would process approximately 10 gallons of diluted waste fibers into energy every minute, representing about five million gallons annually. It is expected to take between 10 and 13 years to finish the remediation effort...Read More »



Autocar Delivers Hybrid Trucks to South Florida

Refuse vehicle manufacturer Autocar announced that Miami-Dade County and two South Florida cities will be among the first to use hybrid powered garbage trucks. The new Autocar E3 refuse vehicles feature Parker Hannifin Corp.'s RunWise advanced series hybrid drive system, which increases fuel savings and lowers emissions. Officials from the US EPA joined local officials this week in presenting the fully hybrid-powered recycle trucks. Autocar says the E3 lowers carbon emissions by up to 38 tons per year and can save up to 50 percent a year on gas...Read More »


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