Weekly News Bulletin: Sep. 21-27, 2010


Investor Groups Want EPA to Regulate Coal Ash as Hazardous Waste

Institutional investor groups including some state treasurers are calling on EPA to regulate coal combustion wastes (CCW) as a hazardous waste under the Resource Conservation & Recovery Act (RCRA). A Sept. 15 letter sent to agency Administrator Lisa Jackson and signed by 22 institutional investor groups with nearly $240 billion in assets, argues, "The financial assurance requirement allows shareholders to better assess this sector's risk profile." EPA in June proposed a first-time RCRA rule seeking comment on two options: regulating coal ash as a special hazardous waste under RCRA subtitle C or as nonhazardous under subtitle D. The agency is holding a series of public hearings on its proposal, and is accepting comment through Nov. 19. Existing financial assurance requirements would be extended to power plants covered by the rule only under a RCRA subtitle C option. The investor group says this requirement alone is reason enough to justify a subtitle C approach. "As investors, we strongly support federally enforceable uniform standards for coal ash disposal as opposed to the patchwork of weak and inconsistent state rules that would remain in place under the subtitle D option," the letter says...Read More »



Industry Urges EPA to Exclude Biomass Emissions from Proposed Rule

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from biomass energy should not be regulated in the same manner as those from fossil fuel plants, argues the National Solid Wastes Management Association (NSWMA), in comments recently submitted to the EPA. The industry group submitted its comments to EPA's proposed "Prevention of Significant Deterioration and Title V Greenhouse Gas Tailoring Rule." Other industry groups including the American Forest & Paper Association and the National Association of Forest Owners, have urged EPA and the White House to exempt biomass CO2 emissions from its just-finalized "tailoring" rule requiring GHG limits in air permits. They argue that biomass used as fuel is essentially "carbon neutral" because plants absorb the same amount of CO2 while growing as is released when burned.

The Clean Air Act generally requires facilities to obtain air permits if they emit more than 100 or 250 tons per year (TPY) of criteria pollutants like lead, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide. The May 13 rule "tailored" the requirements of the act to accommodate GHG regulation but will only require GHG permits for facilities that emit more than 100,000 TPY of CO2. EPA rejected the exemption of biomass because industry did not show "administrative necessity" or the avoidance of "absurd results," legal doctrines used to justify the tailoring rule. The EPA also noted that the best available control technology (BACT) process for determining GHG permit limits gives the agency flexibility to consider the lifecycle impact of biomass fuel...Read More »



S&P Optimistic About Waste Industry

Rating agency Standard & Poor's remains optimistic about environmental & facilities services over the next year based on the view that collection and landfill volume will continue to gradually recover, with year over year growth returning by late 2010 or early 2011. Haulers are expected to continue divesting underperforming assets in favor of more profitable and accretive niche businesses (tuck-ins) while focusing on pricing initiatives to drive top-line growth. Amid price increases, the companies will enhance services to keep customers, and make sure that new work is more profitable than business lost, the so-called "churn" rate. Even though construction and demolition (C&D) volume is expected to remain weak near term, residential, commercial and some special waste industrial volume should grow. Commodity recycling prices are also expected to continue their recovery from record lows of early 2009. And, haulers will continue to raise prices at the landfill, despite excesscapacity (averaging about 20 years), which tend to have higher margins. Finally, haulers will also continue to focus on controlling vehicle maintenance, safety and medical insurance costs. Year to date through September 10, the S&P Environmental & Facilities Services Index rose 6%, while the S&P 1500 was unchanged...Read More »



Massachusetts Plans Restrictions on Energy from Biomass

The Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) released a draft regulation on biomass energy that would make it more difficult for projects to qualify under the state's renewable portfolio standard (RPS), prompting an outcry from industry that says the changes would kill several planned projects. The proposal follows the release this summer of a state-commissioned study, called the Biomass Sustainability and Carbon Policy Study by the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences, that says Massachusetts' incentives for biomass would actually increase the state's carbon emissions (3% by 2050) and would be worse than those of fossil fuels. Local biomass developers and a national industry group were quick to criticize the proposed regulations, accusing the state of using bad science to eliminate a viable source of renewable energy. Bob Cleaves, president of the Biomass Power Association said he feared that other states would draw inappropriate conclusions from the study and put their own restrictions on biomass.

Massachusetts' proposal comes amid a national debate over the ability of biomass electricity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The US EPA is currently considering how it will treat emissions created by burning biomass under upcoming greenhouse gas regulations. So far, EPA has not exempted biomass power plants from rules that apply to other industrial sources. These rules are set to take effect in January. However, EPA says it is still examining the science to settle on the best approach for biomass emissions. Industry advocates argue that burning biomass is essentially "carbon neutral" because plants absorb the same amount of CO2 while growing as is released when burned...Read More »



Clean Harbors Raises Forecast, Will Increase Spending and Repay Debt

Clean Harbors (Norwell, MA) again raised its revenue forecast to between $1.63 billion to $1.68 billion for 2010. It had previously forecast between $1.6 billion and $1.65 billion, but its participation in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill cleanup has been more extensive than anticipated. Chairman and CEO Alan S. McKim delivered the upbeat news during an investor day webcast last Thursday (Sep. 16). He also forecast a larger profit before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization. The company is planning greater capital spending, and now estimates a total of about $100 million this year, rather than a figure in the mid-$80 million range. The company recently announced that its second quarter revenues were more than double last year's helped by work related to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, robust internal growth and added business from its recent acquisition of Canadian oil services firm Eveready Inc...Read More »



CA Gov. Schwarzenegger Urged to Sign Commercial Recycling Bill

Waste industry groups and environmentalists are urging California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) to sign a bill that would mandate commercial recycling in local jurisdictions, with the expectation that the law would supersede a related greenhouse gas (GHG) regulation under consideration at the California Air Resources Board (ARB). The new bill AB 737 would give enforcement authority over to CalRecycle, California's waste department, instead of the air board, which is seeking to regulate commercial recycling through its global warming regulatory authority, given to it by law AB 32. Industry and even some environmental groups believe that CalRecycle is better suited to the task with greater waste and recycling expertise. The problem is that the rules to mandate recycling originate under state law AB 32 as a means to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

AB 32 was signed into law in 2006 with the objective of reducing GHG emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, a roughly 30 percent reduction, and achieving an 80 percent reduction by 2050...Read More »



Covanta to Partner with Project Kaisei to Turn Pacific Garbage Patch into Diesel Fuel

Covanta Energy (Fairfield, NJ) has teamed up with Project Kaisei, an NGO focused on reducing plastic waste in the ocean, to clean up ocean debris, specifically the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (Gyre) in a project brokered by the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI). Ultimately, they hope to eventually process non-recyclable plastic waste from the garbage patch into diesel fuel. Both organizations are members of CGI's Rethinking Waste subgroup, which works on creative solutions to waste management. The partnership was a natural fit, according to Paul Gilman, Chief Sustainability Officer of Covanta. "We're in the process of piloting technology that converts municipal solid waste, including non-recyclable plastics, into a diesel substitute. That part of what we do makes a complementary bookend to our focus on plastics in the ocean," he says. "As a company we've done a considerable amount of work on marine debris." Covanta is currently testing its plastic-to-diesel technology at a pilot facility in Massachusetts through the end of the year...Read More »



US Bureau of Labor Statistics Defines 'Green' Jobs

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics has decided on a final definition of green jobs that will be used in its data collection beginning Fiscal Year 2011, according to a just published Federal Register notice. Collecting data on green jobs "will be useful for evaluating policy initiatives and labor market impact of economic activity related to protecting the environment and conserving natural resources," BLS said. Green jobs in businesses will include providing electricity, heat or fuel generated from renewable sources such as wind, biomass solar, ocean, landfill gas and municipal solid waste; products and services that improve energy efficiency, including Smart Grid technologies; and greenhouse gas reductions through methods other than renewable energy generation and energy efficiency. BLS also identified, by industry sector, the percentage of establishments that potentially produce green jobs and services. The greatest numbers are in the construction and professional business sectors, with 1.6 million establishments, or 75% of the total. The natural resources sector has 88,700 establishments, or 4.1%. In general, the approach is to designate as green those goods and services that directly benefit the environment or preserve natural resources, the agency said...Read More »



Industry Opposes California Plan to Raise Landfill Fees

California's Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery known as CalRecycle is planning to impose a new annual regulatory fee on hundreds of landfills arguing that it is necessary to sustain agency programs in the wake of the recession's impact on their funding in recent years. Industry officials will likely oppose the plan especially given the timing of the fee in a tough economic environment. CalRecycle, which announced the "landfill closure, post-closure maintenance and financial assurance fee" at a Sept. 13 public meeting, says it is comparable to regulatory fees already in place for state water board and toxics department programs. It also coincides with the department's recently adopted "financial assurance" rules aimed at protecting the state from paying for landfill cleanups where operators default or go bankrupt. Some environmentalists, including Nick Lapis of the recycling advocacy and environmental group Californians Against Waste, see the fee helping the state reach its 75% waste diversion goal by imposing a "polluter-pays approach."...Read More »



Alter NRG Wins $25.3 Million Work on Florida Plasma Waste-to-Energy Project

Canadian plasma gasification company Alter NRG (Calgary, AB) said had won engineering support and plasma gasification equipment deals worth up to $25.3 million for a previously announced 24 megawatt waste-to-energy project in St. Lucie Florida. The proposed commercial-scale project will use Alter NRG's proprietary Westinghouse Plasma technology to process about 660 tons per day of municipal solid waste (MSW) from St. Lucie County, plus tires and other permitted feedstocks for conversion into steam and power. The project's developer is Geoplasma St Lucie LLC, which is part of conglomerate Jacoby Group based in Atlanta, GA. Geoplasma has a 20 year agreement with the county to process the waste into clean energy instead of continuing to bury it in the landfill...Read More »



Greenstar to Offer Single-Stream Recycling in Houston

Greenstar North America (Houston, TX) is rolling out single-stream recycling services in Houston. The recycling company reports that through its single stream program, other Texas cities have seen a significant increase in their collection levels, including Dallas, with a 300 percent increase in collection; San Antonio, increasing its collection level by 200 percent; and Austin, which reported a 75 percent increase in recyclables collected. To allow for single-stream recycling, which can accept comingled recyclable materials, Greenstar will upgrade its existing Houston facility with new technologies to automate the sorting process. That work is expected to be done by November this year. "Greenstar is investing in Houston because the demand is here," said Matt Delnick, CEO of Greenstar North American, in a statement. "The people of Houston want to make the right choice and recycle. Now we will be able to recycle with convenience in Houston while reducing the cost of disposal and preserving our environment."...Read More »



EnergySolutions Appoints Interim CFO as Part of New Strategy

Nuclear waste services company EnergySolutions, Inc. has appointed William Benz as Interim Chief Financial Officer, effective immediately, as part of an ongoing realignment of senior management to reflect the Company's new strategic priorities. Mr. Benz replaces Mark C. McBride, who will be retained by the company as a consultant and advisor during a transition period. EnergySolutions President and CEO Val Christensen said "We have determined that the Company would be best served by bringing in a new Chief Financial Officer with a broader range of leadership and business experience who can help us achieve the strategic objectives of the Company and assist our individual business units in the attainment of their respective financial goals." Benz has over 30 years of senior management experience including serving as Chief Financial Officer for a number of public and private companies including Legacy Electronics, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Colorado, Metlife Healthcare Management Corporation, FHP International Corporation, and Western Digital Corporation...Read More »



Waste Management to Present at Morgan Stanley Conference on Sept. 23

Waste Management, Inc. (Houston, TX) filed documents with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that acknowledged that the company while presenting at the Morgan Stanley Business Services Conference in New York on Sept. 23, "may include material non-public information, including information related to the Company's strategic business plans, goals, and forecasts for future performance and industry development." The previously announced presentation is scheduled to begin at 8:35 am ET...Read More »


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