In my December 1 weblog I spoke of the strategic partnership of a pair of CA–based companies, Waste Connections and Fulcrum BioEnergy, that are developing a biofuels plant near Reno, NV, in which I alleged that, “…the good old-fashioned vision of recycling precludes the adoption of competing diversion processes. This is set in bureaucratic stone by the proscription that while recycling—which for the most part means bundling stuff up and shipping it to offshore destinations with no oversight as to its actual fate—receives 100% credit for meeting the state-mandated waste diversion goal. Waste diversion accomplished by means of in-state conversion processes is eligible for only a 10% diversion credit.”
I then went on to say, “…you take non-recyclable organic waste currently bound for a landfill and ship it out of state, which allows you to take California’s energy credit as well as the state’s full diversion credit for which it would not have been eligible were the biofuel plant located in California.”
It appears that I may have erred in my analysis of the situation as pointed out by Cal Recycle’s deputy director, Dr. Howard Levenson, who was kind enough to respond as follows:
I just read your editorial blog on “Perhaps Ignorance is Truly Bliss” and wanted to provide a couple of brief clarifications.
First, your characterization of California’s system and how it treats transformation does not reflect changes from legislation (SB 1016) passed two years ago, which changed the system from a diversion to a disposal-based focus. Please check the link below to learn more about SB 1016; I’ve also copied the portion on transformation below.
Second, to me your editorial implies that the Waste Connections and Fulcrum “waste conversion facility near Reno” can’t get “diversion credit” in California, which sends the wrong message. With the changes from SB 1016, what is important is whether or not something is characterized as disposal. Without knowing what the Reno waste conversion facility technology actually is, I can’t say for sure how it would be treated here in California. If it’s a more traditional waste-to-energy facility then it might fall in the statutory Transformation definition and be considered a disposal facility. However, if it’s something that is producing ethanol along with energy, then it more likely would fall into the Gasification definition or into the broad category of “transfer station/processing facility,” neither one of which constitutes disposal. When project proponents and local government officials ask about where a potential project fits within the SB 1016 system and our permitting framework, we typically work with our legal office and permitting staff to provide a tentative determination to the proponents regarding necessary permits and whether or not it would be considered a disposal facility. (I say “tentative” because projects usually change when they go through the actual permitting process, so we can’t be 100% sure until we see the project description on a more formal basis).
I hope this provides some help.
Howard Levenson, Ph.D.
Deputy Director, Materials Management & Local Assistance
I wish to thank Dr. Levenson for his clarification of the situation and apologize for any confusion I may have created.