States Battle Activists Over Existing Coal Ash Regulation
As EPA considers whether to regulate coal combustion residuals (CCRs) as either hazardous waste under subtitle C of the Resource Conservation & Recovery Act (RCRA), or less stringently as solid waste under RCRA subtitle D, states and the power industry continue to fight activists' claims that existing state controls on coal ash disposal lack "essential safeguards." They call the claims "insulting" and say they are based on a skewed reading of data on coal ash disposal. EPA recently closed public comment on an Oct. 12 notice of data availability (NODA) to regulate CCRs. EPA sought comment on new information including the chemical constituents of CCRs, facility and waste management units and the adequacy of state ash programs...Read More »
Waste-to-Fuels Company to Build $450 Million Plant in Louisiana
Sundrop Fuels Inc. (Longmont, CO), a young company focused on developing what it calls "green gasoline," has announced plans to build its first production plant in central Louisiana near Alexandria. So far, the company has agreed to purchase 1,200 acres of land on which the $450 million plant will be built in 2012. The plant will produce up to 50 million gallons annually of transportation fuel from plant fiber and agricultural waste. It will be financed in part through the sale of tax-exempt Private Activity Bonds. In July, natural gas developer Chesapeake Energy (Oklahoma City, OK) paid $155 million for a 50 percent stake in the company. Sundrop's first production plant is expected to pave the way for much larger-capacity, 200-million gallon-per-year plants the company hopes to bring online later this decade.
Sundrop's technology, utilizes a high temperature reactor, that operates at 4,500 degrees, higher than most others, which consumes virtually all of the feedstock leaving very little waste or emissions. The reactor is heated by natural gas supplied by Sundrop's partner, Chesapeake Energy...Read More »
Supreme Court to Hear Waste Case
The US Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case of a natural gas distribution company which claims that criminal fines issued by a lower court for violating federal waste law violated its Sixth Amendment rights because a judge, not a jury, determined the duration of the violation used to calculate the fine. The Sixth Amendment guarantees right to a trial by jury for criminal prosecutions. A federal district court in 2009 found the Southern Union Company (Houston, TX) guilty of violating waste disposal requirements under the Resource Conservation & Recovery Act (RCRA) after it stored old mercury-filled gas regulators and loose liquid mercury in an unsecured building in Pawtucket, RI. The district court judge imposed an $18 million fine, consisting of $6 million in criminal fines and $12 million in community service fees, in part based on a finding that the company was in violation of RCRA for 762 days, liable for up to $50,000 per day in fines...Read More »
Judge Reopens CA Compost Facility That Claimed Two Lives
A judge has ruled that a California composting facility can reopen, two weeks after it was shut down following the deaths of two of its workers. Cal-OSHA, the state labor commissioner and the U.S. Department of Labor continue to investigate the deaths of two brothers who died last month after apparently inhaling toxic fumes. The Kern County Board of Supervisors revoked the facility's operating permit at a Nov. 15 public hearing and imposed a $2.3 million fine for operating an unpermitted plastics recycling operation.
This week Kern County Superior Court Judge J. Eric Bradshaw issued a stay allowing the facility, operated by Community Recycling & Resource Recovery Inc. (Crown Disposal), to reopen. He also deferred a requirement by the county that the site be cleaned up by Dec. 15, something the company considered unrealistic and in violation of state environmental health requirements.
The county's position was further complicated by more that 130 workers who have been protesting the loss of their jobs owing to the facility's closure and a warning from the Lamont Public Utility District that without Community Recycling accepting its waste, sewer water would soon spill onto nearby highways...Read More »
WM Launches Online Diversion Tracking Tool for Builders
Waste Management, Inc. (Houston, TX) is building on its sustainability credentials by launching an online tool that helps builders and developers track environmental performance and earn LEED certification. The tool should simplify the task for builders of managing and calculating diversion rates for an increasingly variety of traditional C&D materials, such as wood, rock, metal, cardboard and plastic, as well as nontraditional items that can be reused, such as shingles, concrete, fiberboard and paneling. As a result, the strategy will likely lead Waste Management's builder/developer customers to utilize more of its service offerings, especially its recycling facilities.
"Success is only meaningful if it can be measured", said Jim Halter, vice president of construction solutions for Waste Management. "With the DART tool, contractors and architects can really zero in on what they are diverting and where there is opportunity to improve. We are not just tracking performance for the present, but also setting benchmarks to be surpassed in the future."...Read More »
Treated Wood Waste Industry Asks EPA for Definition as Fuel, Not Waste
Companies that use wood waste, including treated wood as a fuel source are urging EPA to define treated wood as a "fuel" subject to EPA's boiler air toxics rule rather than a "waste" subject to stricter incinerator emissions limits. Officials with the Treated Wood Council met with White House and EPA officials on Nov. 8 to seek a regulatory determination defining treated wood as "traditional" fuel for facilities burning railroad ties and telephone poles, which are often coated with creosote. The group argued that classifying treated wood as a waste would violate longstanding contractual obligations to supply fuel, raising costs, send more waste to landfills, and that banned treated wood would be replaced with petroleum-based fuels or coal that would emit higher levels of greenhouse gases (GHGs). Environmental groups oppose increased burning of treated wood out of the concern that it releases the chemicals used for treating the product.
The treated wood sector hopes to win a broad definition of its products as a fuel in EPA's planned revisions to the NHSM rulemaking -- part of a wider process that includes reconsideration of key provisions in the boiler maximum achievable control technology (MACT) rule and the commercial and industrial solid waste incinerators (CISWI) emissions rule...Read More »
Former EPA Policy Chief Faults White House For Backing Off Regulations
A former EPA policy chief and top climate advisor is publicly blasting the Obama Administration for failing to mount a forceful defense of environmental regulations in the face of fierce partisan attacks, charging that officials are overemphasizing rules' potential costs and understating benefits, resulting in overly cautious and inadequate regulations. Lisa Heinzerling, the former head of EPA's policy office left EPA after a two-year stint last December shortly after the 2010 midterm elections. Since leaving EPA, she has continued her advocacy, charging that the agency's climate rules are "too modest" and that President Obama's decision to block EPA's ozone standard revision is likely "unlawful." Her stance is antithetical to many Republicans and industry officials who pushing to roll back or limit some of EPA's latest initiatives...Read More »
Companies Building a 4.3 MW Solar Power Facility atop a NJ Landfill
China-based ENN Solar Energy has partnered with National Energy Renewable Corp (NERC) to turn an old East Brunswick, New Jersey landfill into a 4.3 megawatt solar power generation plant. ENN has supplied 9,000 of its thin-film silicon solar modules for the project, which is expected to produce 100 million kWh of electricity over its lifetime. Electricity produced by the plant will be made available to New Jersey consumers through PSE&G, New Jersey's oldest and largest publicly-owned utility. "Through the comprehensive utilization of wastelands, such as landfills, abandoned industrial sites and deserts, we can develop and build substantial ground-mounted solar power plants that advance the future development of clean power," said De-Ling Zhou, COO of ENN Solar Energy.
Work began in September on a 3.3 megawatt solar array atop another New Jersey landfill in Bergen County. That company, SunDurance Energy (Edison, NJ), will eventually place 12,500 panels on a 30-acre portion of the site...Read More »
Company to Build $75 Biomass Manufacturing Plant near Norfolk, VA
Enviva LP (Richmond, VA), which manufactures processed biomass in the US and Europe, plans to invest $75 million to build a 454,000 ton-per-year wood pellet manufacturing facility in Courtland, VA (about 30 miles west of Norfolk). The project, which could begin operations in the first half of 2013, will bring Enviva's total annual production capacity to 1.5 million tons-per-year. Enviva has been supplying wood chips and pellets to customers in the US and Europe since 2007. It operates wood pellet manufacturing facilities throughout the southeastern US, as well as in Belgium. Lately the company has been expanding in the Mid-Atlantic region where it has a new 350,000 ton-per-year pellet plant in Ahoskie, NC and is developing a similar 400,000 ton-per-year operation in Northampton County, NC. Most of its product there will be exported to its European customers via its terminal in Chesapeake, VA acquired last February...Read More »
Rhode Island Landfill Agency Reaches $3.3 Million Settlement with Insurer
The Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation (RIRRC), which manages the state's Central Landfill, has secured a $3.3 million settlement agreement with its insurance company that covered the landfill for certain types of theft-related losses. RIRRC sued Travelers Casualty and Surety Company of America in state Superior Court in 2010 for $75 million in connection with losses suffered over a period of years under its previous director. RIRRC presented as evidence a 2009 forensic audit report documenting years of mismanagement, flawed multimillion-dollar land deals and construction projects, cronyism, suspected fraud and bid-rigging, bogus workers' compensation claims, overtime scams and other wasteful activity...Read More »
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