Weekly News Bulletin: May 9-15, 2012


Waste Management Q1 Earnings off Slightly on Higher Revenue

Waste Management, Inc. (Houston, TX) said first quarter earnings fell amid rising overhead and lower commodity prices for the materials it recycles and lower energy prices. This came despite a solid 6.2 percent increase in revenue, mostly coming from its acquisition of Oakleaf, but also from growing waste volumes, its first gains since 2006. Net income for the period ended March 31 fell to $171 million, or $0.37 per share, from $186 million, or $0.39 per share, the same period a year earlier. Earnings were impacted by $3 million in after-tax restructuring charges and integration costs from its acquisition of Oakleaf last July. Eliminating those one-time items related to Oakleaf, adjusted earnings were $0.38 per share. Revenue for the quarter rose to $3.29 billion from $3.10 billion for the same period last year. "Our revenue grew for the ninth consecutive quarter," said CEO David Steiner. "We achieved solid performance in the first quarter of 2012 despite the expected impact of the headwinds we discussed in our fourth quarter 2011 earnings release," he said. The headwinds include 20 percent lower recycled commodity prices which affected earnings by $0.03 per share, a $0.02 per share impact from lower energy prices affecting its waste-to-energy business, and a $0.01 per share impact from higher fuel costs. Seen in a prudential light, the longer term trend favors a recovery in recycled commodity prices as well as energy and fuel costs, particularly as the economy recovers. The company is hedging its bets by aggressively acquiring more compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles. "With our core solid waste business growing revenue and earnings, we overcame those headwinds to produce a solid start to our year," Steiner said...Read More »



Republic Services Q1 Profit Down on Weak Volume

Republic Services, Inc. (Phoenix, AZ) said low volume growth amid challenging market conditions hurt first quarter profit which fell a steeper-than-expected 9.7%, despite modest growth in revenue. Consequently, the company lowered its full-year earnings guidance to $1.86 to $1.90 per share from previous guidance of $1.98 to $2.02. Net income fell to $142.9 million or $0.38 per share from $158.2 million or $0.41 per share in the same period last year. Revenue increased to $1.982 billion from $1.965 billion, helped by core price increases of 0.6 percent and volume growth of .2 percent which offset a decrease in recycling commodities pricing of 0.8 percent.

We are updating our full year guidance to reflect higher costs and current business conditions," said Donald W. Slager, President and Chief Executive Officer of Republic Services, Inc. "We will continue to invest in our core business including recycling, fleet maintenance, automation and natural gas initiatives. In addition, we have a robust pipeline of potential acquisitions and have completed approximately $65 million of acquisition activity through April."

Separately, Republic announced that its long-time finance chief Tod C. Holmes, 63, plans to retire in May 2013 after working for the company since 1998. The company said it has a succession plan in place and expects to complete a smooth transition over the next year...Read More »



Waste Connections Q1 Profit Off on Moving Costs, Revenue Up 14%

Waste Connections, Inc. (The Woodlands, TX) said first quarter profit declined despite a nearly 14 percent increase in revenue. Nonetheless, profit and revenue still beat expectations. Profit for the quarter declined to $31.3 million or $0.27 per share from $36.5 million or $0.32 per share in the prior-year quarter. However, when adjusted for one-time costs associated with the company's move to Texas from California and a one-time equity compensation expense, profits were $37.2 million or $0.32 per share, compared to $36.9 million or $0.32 per share last year. Costs of sales also weighed on earnings, rising to $216.7 million from $187.1 million last year. On the other hand, revenue rose to $376.4 million, up 13.6 percent from $331.5 million last year, helped by price growth of 3.6 percent and higher volume.

"We are pleased to kick off our 15th anniversary with first quarter results that once again exceeded the upper end of our revenue and margin expectations. Continuing pricing strength and increased special waste and construction-related disposal volumes helped overcome the negative impact from year-over-year decreases in recycled commodity values, the loss of lower priced disposal volumes at our Chiquita Canyon landfill, and increased fuel costs," said CEO Ron Mittelstaedt...Read More »



Bill Gates Seizes Opportunity to Up His Stake in Republic Services

Billionaire Bill Gates, through his investment company Cascade Investment, LLC, picked up more shares of Republic Services. Taking advantage of a lower stock price that was off by about 13 percent following the announcement of lower first quarter earnings, Cascade acquired an additional 3.7 million shares between April 30 and May 2 for an average price of $27.40 per share. The stock had been selling over $30 per share just days earlier. This transaction represents an investment of $101.4 million which brings his total to 68.85 million shares representing an ownership interest of 18.6 percent of the company...Read More »



Progressive Waste Q1 Profit Dips on Higher Fuel Costs and Fees

Progressive Waste Solutions, Ltd. (Toronto, ON) said higher first quarter operating expenses caused a drop in net income despite higher revenue. The culprit: higher diesel fuel prices and non-recurring professional services fees. Net income fell slightly to $22.07 million from $23.10 million in the year-ago quarter. Earnings per share, however, were flat at $0.19 for the two comparable quarters. Adjusted net income for the quarter declined to $24.10 million, or $0.20 per share, from $28.2 million, or $0.23 per share in the same quarter last year. Revenue increased 3.6 percent to $438.30 million from $422.8 million last year helped by strategic "tuck-in" acquisitions and consolidated core price increases of 1 percent. Those gains however were offset by lower recycled fiber prices, and softness in the U.S. northeast segment.

"The results of our first quarter were in line with our expectations and our performance is on track with our outlook for 2012. Our 2012 guidance anticipated lower comparative first quarter results due in large part to the rollover impact of the weak economic environment in the U.S. Northeast that we faced in the latter part of 2011," said CEO Joseph Quarin. He reaffirmed the company's outlook which conservatively assumes no change in recycled fiber prices...Read More »



Veolia Q1 Earnings Off 12% on Lower Waste

Veolia Environnement SA (Paris, France), burdened by rising debt, reported first quarter earnings that were off 12 percent amid a "difficult" economy that lowered waste volumes and despite revenue growth of 3.4 percent. Among its biggest expenses is the company's transformation plan which involves an objective to divest 5 billion euros in assets and reduce net financial debt below 12 billion euros by the end of 2013 while also reducing costs by 220 million euros by then. Adjusted operating income fell to 543.5 million euros ($715 million) in the first quarter from 618.8 million euros a year earlier. While overall revenue was higher, particularly from water and energy services which rose by 5.3 percent, environmental services declined by 0.9 percent. France partially compensated for the declines in the United Kingdom and Germany. North American revenue rose by 2.2 percent on higher hazardous waste activity, but was negatively impacted by lower industrial services activity...Read More »



Clean Harbors Beats Expectations on Shale Demand

Clean Harbors, Inc. (Norwell, MA) reported first quarter profit that grew an astonishing 41 percent, beating expectations for the eighth time in a row and helped by demand from oil and gas shale in the US and Canada. Net income rose to $32 million, or $0.60 per share, from $22.7 million, or $0.43 per share, a year earlier. Revenue grew 32 percent to $572 million. Chairman and CEO Alan S. McKim attributed the growth to the company's energy and industrial business which generated "high levels of activity throughout the quarter despite the early onset of the spring break-up." McKim added that each of the company's operating segments - technical services, field services, industrial services, and oil and gas field services - experienced growth during the first quarter. The company said it expects its 2012 revenue to be in the range of $2.2 billion to $2.25 billion...Read More »



EPA Will Not Reconsider Sewage Sludge Incinerator Rule

The EPA has rejected separate petitions from both industry as well as environmental groups to reconsider key provisions of its sewage sludge incinerator (SSI) rule. In its response, the EPA rejected industry's claim that the rule is unnecessarily stringent and denied Sierra Club's claims that the rule is too lenient because it relies on "agency-fabricated" emissions data. The National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) and Sierra Club had petitioned EPA in May 2011 for administrative reconsideration of the rule, while also filing lawsuits in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit over the maximum achievable control technology (MACT) used in the rule. EPA's rejection of the petitions now shifts the focus back to the litigation, NACWA v. EPA.

In an April 6 letter to NACWA, EPA denied a host of challenges to the SSI rule, including that EPA erred by regulating SSIs under section 129 of the air law, which covers solid waste combustion. NACWA said EPA should have regulated SSI under section 112, which addresses air toxics under a less stringent method. The agency also rejected NACWA's claim that the final rule should have established "subcategories" to regulate SSIs in accordance with their function and frequency of use...Read More »



Apple Will Use Landfill Gas to Power Data Center

Apple, perhaps taking a page from Microsoft, plans to power its North Carolina data center using fuel cells running on landfill gas. It is part of an ambitious plan to operate using 60 percent on-site renewable energy. According to regulatory filings with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), Apple will use biogas from landfills that is cleaned and injected into the local natural gas pipeline (Directed Biogas) to fuel 4.8 megawatts of fuel cells. Fuel cells offer the advantage of converting biogas or natural gas to power more efficiently than combustion, without significant air emissions and with fewer moving parts. In this case, they will be using a renewable energy source and will not be dependent on the often unreliable energy grid...Read More »



EPA Considers New Pharmaceutical Waste Rules

The EPA is now considering healthcare facility-specific regulations for managing hazardous pharmaceutical waste rather than regulate them under its universal waste program as proposed in Dec. 2008. The action follows criticism from states and the healthcare industry that its original approach would fail to address improper disposal of the waste.

EPA's 2008 proposed rule aimed to facilitate better management of pharmaceutical wastes by streamlining generator requirements and encouraging generators of hazardous pharmaceutical wastes to manage them under the provisions of the Universal Waste Rule, which is generally less stringent than federal rules for hazardous waste. The proposed rule was intended to facilitate take-back programs by removing Resource Conservation & Recovery Act (RCRA) barriers, according to the rule's preamble. The Environmental Council of the States,representing state environmental regulators, wrote that EPA's proposed rule was unlikely to divert pharmaceuticals from sewer systems because of DEA's witnessed destruction requirements and because reverse distributors cannot accept most pharmaceutical wastes generated outside the pharmacy. States want the agency to take a more holistic approach to dealing with pharmaceutical waste, by working with other federal agencies, like the DEA and the FDA, on the issue...Read More »



Environmentalists' Report Shows Risk from Coal Ash Disposal Sites

Environmental groups argue that new data indicates that at least 49 power plants have groundwater contamination surrounding their coal ash disposal sites that exceeds state or federal water quality standards. They say 28 of those came to light only recently once the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) was able to examine data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. Their report is part of a full court press to pressure EPA to quickly finalize a rule subjecting coal ash to strict hazardous waste rules. EPA has proposed regulating ash as either hazardous waste or subject to less stringent solid waste rules, an approach favored by states and industry, but a final rule is not expected until 2013. Environmentalists have long argued that existing state controls and voluntary industry efforts to control ash disposal are inadequate to protect against potential water contamination, pointing to the major coal ash release from a collapsed impoundment at a Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) power plant in Dec. 2008. EIP's report says data collected from 91 power plants in 2010 shows that 49 of them reported excessive levels of various pollutants, including arsenic, boron, manganese and selenium, in groundwater surrounding their impoundment sites. The remaining 42 plants failed to respond, cited confidential business information, or said that groundwater monitoring data was not available...Read More »



Babcock & Wilcox Gets Go Ahead on Florida Waste-to-Energy Plant

Babcock & Wilcox said it has received full notice to proceed on the engineering and construction of a 95 megawatt waste-to-energy plant in West Palm Beach, Florida. B&W and its consortium partner, KBR, were awarded a $668 million contract for the project in April 2011. B&W said the new waste-to-energy facility will be located adjacent to the Solid Waste Authority (SWA)'s existing plant and will be capable of processing 3,000 tons of municipal solid waste per day to produce electricity and reduce the amount of waste sent to the county's landfill. The plant is scheduled to begin commercial operation in the spring of 2015...Read More »



ReCommunity Invests $15 Million in Delaware Recycling Plant

ReCommunity (Charlotte, NC) has signed a 20-year contract with the Delaware Solid Waste Authority to operate their primary recycling facility in New Castle. The company plans to invest $15 million to upgrade and install new equipment at the existing 64,000-square-foot building there. Work is to begin within 90 days with plans to open early next year. Last month, ReCommunity opened a 52,000-square-foot recycling facility in Beacon, NY. The company invested $7.5 million in that plant, which will process materials collected across the Northeast.

"ReCommunity is a company with a purpose," Chief Executive Jim Bohlig said today in an announcement about the Delaware deal. "We exist to help our community partners extract value from their own resources. In the process, we help make them stronger economically and help make the environment cleaner."...Read More »



Louisiana Home to State's First Landfill Gas-to-Fuel Plant

St. Landry Parish in Louisiana debuted a landfill gas-to-fuel plant, developed by Cornerstone Environmental, which will supply up to 250 gasoline gallon equivalents (GGE) per day of BioCNG vehicle fuel. It is the first such facility in the state. The Parish recently began fueling 15 of its vehicles, including 10 sheriffs' cruisers. The Parish received grants and a state tax credit that reduced the capital cost by about 50 percent, and is also receiving ongoing renewable fuel credits...Read More »



Connecticut Moves to Pass Mattress Recycling Bill

The Connecticut state legislature has passed a bill that would make mattress manufacturers pay for recycling their products. Connecticut could become the first state in the union to do so if the measure becomes law. The state says that old mattresses are a huge problem and that it spends $1.2 million yearly to dispose of about 176,000 mattresses. They clog landfills, do not burn well, and are labor-intensive to recycle, costing on average $40 apiece to do so.

The bill (S.B. No. 89) is designed as an 'extended producer responsibility' law that would require mattress makers to come up with a recycling plan by 2013. Consumers would pay for the program, possibly through fees collected by retailers or through higher prices. In either case, retailers worry it will lead consumers to buy online in order to avoid the recycling fees...Read More »



EnergySolutions Q1 Loss on Lower Revenue from Federal Work

EnergySolutions (Salt Lake City, UT) reported lower revenue and a loss for the first quarter. Revenue, which hit record levels a year ago, were down due to the earlier completion of several of its projects and decreased stimulus funding received for projects such as the Atlas mill tailings clean-up in Moab. Revenue declined to $490.7 million from $522.3 million in the same period last year. Profit fell to a loss of $0.7 million, or ($0.01) per share, compared with a net income of $9.9 million, or $0.11 per share a year ago. In a statement announcing the company's first quarter financial results, President and CEO Val Christensen said management is optimistic about 2012 and realization of the company's five-year strategic growth plan. He said the company is pleased with the progress of efforts to reduce operating, sales and administrative costs while continuing to pursue opportunities to increase disposal volumes at its Clive facility in Tooele County...Read More »



US Ecology Reports Higher Profit on Lower Sales

US Ecology, Inc. (Boise, ID) surprised investors with lower first quarter revenue, hurt by a 53 percent decline in transportation business, and news that "regulatory considerations" would adversely affect the business for "the remainder of the year." Consequently, the company revised its earnings-per-share guidance for the year to between $0.92 and $1.02 per share from a previously expected $1.07 to $1.17 earnings per share. The decline in transportation work was offset by higher treatment and disposal revenue that reflects "the stable to improving economic conditions" in the company's industrial base, according to CFO Jeff Feeler. Net income for the quarter rose to 4.5 million, or $0.25 per share from $3.3 million, or $0.18 per share last year. Total revenue dipped to $33 million from $34.1 million...Read More »



Greenleaf Power Opens Wood Waste-to-Energy Plant in SoCal

Renewable energy developer Greenleaf Power (Sacramento, CA) has begun operating a 47 megawatt wood waste-to-power facility in Imperial County in southern California. The Desert View Power plant, formerly Colmac Energy, is one of the largest biomass power plants in the state. It will meet the power needs of about 45,000 households using discarded wood waste from local agricultural, construction and demolition activities...Read More »



EQ Buys TSDF in Alabama

EQ - The Environmental Quality Company (Wayne, MI) said it acquired Terra First, Inc., a hazardous waste treatment, storage and disposal facility (TSDF) in Vernon, Alabama. EQ now operates 28 TSDF facilities throughout the US where it also performs a host of specialized environmental services. "The addition of EQ Alabama enhances our leadership position in the industry, bringing a broad range of environmental services to the South and Gulf Coast regions," stated David Lusk, President and CEO of EQ...Read More »


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