For nearly two decades, MSW Management has championed the cause of waste conversion technologies (CTs) and seen increasingly positive acceptance nearly everywhere in the US and Canada with the very notable exception of California, whose legislature has approved and forwarded to the governor for his signature AB-1126, a bill whose prescriptive drafting is guaranteed to drive a final stake in the heart of any future CT (or other creative waste management) activity in the state. Why the legislature has done this is the subject for another day, but at this juncture, the last great hope rests in the hands of Gov. Jerry Brown.
In order to show where the aforementioned stake lies, and the need for Governor Brown to veto the bill, I’d like to pass to you a letter in its entirety sent by the BioEnergy Association on September 13, 2013.
Honorable Jerry Brown,
Governor of California
c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173
Sacramento, California 95814
Re: URGENT REQUEST FOR VETO OF AB 1126
Dear Governor Brown:
For the past eight years, the BioEnergy Producers Association has been the leading advocate for biobased technology providers whose goal is the production of power, liquid fuel and chemicals from California’s carbon-based wastes. On behalf of these companies, we urge you to VETO AB 1126.
This industry could potentially produce 1.6 billion gallons of advanced biofuels from the more than 30 million tons of organic waste that are now being placed in California’s landfills, contributing to an improved economy, a better environment, lower-cost vehicle fuel, energy independence and national security.
Due to the failure of state government over the past decade to remove statutory and regulatory roadblocks to the implementation of conversion technologies, and incidents like the Plasco fiasco, California-based biobased technology providers have moved out of California or located in other states more than $1 billion dollars in plant construction. In several cases, they have even moved their headquarters out of the state. The industry, as a whole, has turned its back on California.
Instead of “making this work” for conversion technology providers in California, AB 1126 prejudicially favors the combustion of municipal solid waste at facilities like cement kilns, while further shutting the door on both new technologies and innovative thinking.
It creates a new category of solid waste facility that further complicates compliance with existing statute and creates new roadblocks to the use of conversion technologies for MSW diversion.
* Makes no distinction between combustion and thermal conversion under its new “EMSW” definition.
* Creates further confusion and regulatory ambiguity with existing statutory definitions for "biomass conversion" (PRC 40106) and "gasification" (PRC 40117)," which impose different performance and RPS/diversion eligibility standards for similar conversion processes and feedstocks.
* Imposes artificial operating limits on EMSW facilities that will create an administrative and reporting nightmare for conversion technology facilities.
* Does not provide RPS credit for organic wastes that would otherwise qualify as renewable if processed by other technologies.
* Requires that EMSW facilities convert feedstocks to beneficial use via replacement of fossil fuels, but permanently categorizes them as disposal and disqualifies them from obtaining diversion credits.
Without this credit, public jurisdictions have no incentive to provide their post-recycled municipal waste streams to conversion technology facilities. In fact, they could potentially suffer economic penalties for doing so.
Meanwhile, landfills are RPS eligible for every electron they produce, they receive diversion credit for all beneficial activities taking place on site (including green waste that is used as alternative daily cover), they are not subject to AB 32 compliance and have almost no limitation on the size or composition of the feedstock they can accept.
At least the existing "gasification" definition, even if it is scientifically inaccurate and impossible for any conversion technology to meet, classifies conversion technologies utilizing gasification as non-disposal, and therefore eligible for the RPS and 100% diversion.
Conversion technologies clearly meet the statutory definition of recycling. It is unequivocal that conversion technologies “treat, and reconstitute materials that would otherwise become solid waste, and return them to the economic mainstream in the form of raw material for new, reused, or reconstituted products which meet the quality standards necessary to be used in the marketplace.”
In summary, this legislation fails to acknowledge what is clear to state after state across America: that before the end of this decade, there will be a new definition of recycling that addresses the “recycling of carbon” rather than the recycling of finished goods.
These facts were recognized early in the Obama administration, which has provided significant financial assistance to biobased technology providers through grants and loan guarantees. Even the state of Massachusetts recently reversed a 23-year suspension of building waste-to-energy and conversion technology projects in the state. In announcing the decision, Kenneth Kimmell, the Department of Environmental Protection commissioner, said, “Massachusetts can no longer afford the same old methods of managing waste.”
Conversion technologies should not be bound by impossible-to-meet waste characterization and waste composition parameters that suffocate the use of MRF residuals for such practical purposes.
Post-recycled materials should be made available to conversion technologies with full diversion credit for their organic content. They should be made available without limitation as to organic content or the percentage of moisture in these residuals. Mixed Waste Processing Facilities should not be required to bear the costs or additional reporting requirements required to meet pre-determined standards for the composition of post-recycled materials that are destined for treatment by conversion technologies.
For these reasons, we strongly urge that you VETO AB 1126.
James L. Stewart, Chairman
David A. Roberti, President (Senator, ret.)
Kay Martin, Vice President
While the BioEnergy Producers Association has a vested interest in this situation, I’d like to suggest that in this case the interests of clean energy providers align with the interests of all Californians in achieving the State’s AB 32 goals of decreased reliance on fossil fuels and landfill abatement. Indeed, because of the bill’s prescriptive nature, the entire waste industry in the US and Canada, should be concerned, as any innovative waste management approach is effectively stymied without possibility of discussion.