September 8, 2013
Energy Extraction Partners LLC (EEP) responded to Stafford County’s RFP #111124 with a proposal dated November 1, 2012. By March 19, 2013, the Stafford Board of Supervisors (BOS) voted to allow permits to be issued for a power facility without public hearings, making power generating facilities a by-right use. In April, the BOS eliminated the machinery and tools tax, depriving Stafford of $150,000 in revenue from that plant. The end result is that the County will see virtually no tax revenue from this facility except for the approximate $6,000 in real estate tax per year, in exchange for a $100,000 per year lease, half of which belongs to the City of Fredericksburg, while taxpayers are being required to incur an estimated $6.35 Million dollar road improvement bill. In June, the BOS approved the lease, without the public or the BOS members seeing the details of the lease. There is only one reason that citizens are now aware of this proposal and lease: the City of Fredericksburg, who co-operates the landfill with Stafford, chose to inform its citizens by posting the lease and other documents and hosting a public hearing on July 9, 2013. For over six months, Stafford’s BOS successfully hid the details of this tire incinerator from its own citizens.
- The Pyrolysis Plant is an incinerator, with all the same problems that incinerators have, even when performed in an oxygen starved environment, producing the same type of toxic by-products, slag and emissions.
- EPA Definitions: 40 CFR 60.51
i. (a) Incinerator means any furnace used in the process of burning solid waste for the purpose of reducing the volume of the waste by removing combustible matter.
ii. (b) Solid waste means refuse, more than 50 percent of which is municipal type waste consisting of a mixture of paper, wood, yard wastes, food wastes, plastics, leather, rubber, and other combustibles, and noncombustible materials such as glass and rock.
- The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has confirmed that they believe pyrolysis is incineration.
- Toxic/Hazardous Waste: Despite claims made by some Stafford BOS members, this plant will produce hazardous waste and release pollutants into the air.
- EPA Definition: 40 CFR 60.51a(3): Pyrolysis/combustion unit means a unit that produces gases, liquids, or solids through the heating of MSW [Municipal Solid Waste], and the gases, liquids, or solids produced are combusted and emissions vented to the atmosphere. “Municipal waste combustor, MWC, or municipal waste combustor unit: (1) Means any setting or equipment that combusts solid, liquid, or gasified MSW including, but not limited to… pyrolysis/combustion units.”
- In Europe, where these projects have actually been attempted, pyrolysis plants are defined as incineration. Article 3 of Directive 2000/76/EC of the European Parliament on the incineration of waste: “‘Incineration plant’ means any stationary or mobile technical unit and equipment dedicated to the thermal treatment of wastes with or without recovery of the combustion heat generated. This includes the incineration by oxidation of waste as well as other thermal treatment processes such as pyrolysis, gasification or plasma processes in so far as the substances resulting from the treatment are subsequently incinerated.”
- Emissions released into the air can contain a variety of toxic gases, including dioxins, mercury, aluminum, carbon dioxide, etc. Wisconsin’s Dept. of Natural Resources cites emissions and toxins as problems with processes classified as pyrolysis, gasification, and/or incineration. (http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/landfills/documents/stabilizationstrategies-rev.pdf)
- The waste oil manufactured by the plant is toxic, and if not sold, will need to be stored or disposed of. EEP is dependent upon market demand for the waste oil, but has not yet identified who will purchase the waste oil. Storage of the toxic waste oil is never addressed in the Proposal or Agreement.
- The amount of waste generated by Stafford and Fredericksburg is insufficient to make the project successful financially. It requires importing 90 to 100 tons of tires per day from all over Virginia, and eventually from all over the country (Proposal 5.2). It also may require the importation of other materials with high BTUs, such as plastics. EEP even stated their intent to import more tires to raise the power output from 15 Mega Watts to 20 Mega Watts. We estimate that, at that volume of tires, the plant would generate a tanker truck of waste oil each day.
- Both the EEP proposal (Section 6) in response to the RFP and the April 23, 2013 Agreement discuss how to handle hazardous solid waste (page 2), so the claim that no hazardous waste will be generated is specious.
- The EEP proposal makes unproven statements about the air emissions in the Proposal Section 2.5, seemingly adopting a “trust me” approach. Technically, at the pyrolysis stage of the process there is no exhaust/smokestack because the “syngas” is pumped into a holding tank and then used to boil water for the steam turbines. At that stage, the combustion products from the syngashave to be released into the air to make way for newly produced syngas. Permit applications from other attempted pyrolysis plants state that the plants will release particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, volatile organic compounds, carbon monoxide, and hydrogen sulfide into the air. Given the nature of the waste being converted, there is also the chance for much more potent toxic materials being released, including dioxins, lead, mercury, etc. The EPA monitoring schedule is insufficient to ensure that these are not released into the air. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ report for the Green Bay, WI project indicated there would be 18 toxic air pollutants released using this technology.
- Recycling for the purpose of creating post-consumer recycled products will cease (Proposal 4.1.1). They will use recyclables in their own system rather than send them to recycling plants because they will get more money from the energy they will produce in their unit than they would from selling them to recycling plants (Proposal 5.3). The financial analysis doesn’t properly account for the lost revenue from recycling to Stafford County.
- Noise and stench are real problems, but EEP dismisses them in their Proposal Section 2.5 (“trust me”).
- Nowhere have any plants created most of its ash/slag from tires, so the environmental impact of huge quantities of tire slag on water, land, and air has never been evaluated. We are risking the Stafford County, and possible surrounding counties’ water, by dumping huge amounts of toxic tire waste into the landfill. There are no restrictions in the Agreement on EEP dumping tire slag into the landfill.
- Water quality could be deleteriously impacted if waste water is pumped into the Stafford sewage system or if mosquito-inviting lagoons are created to filter the water. Of course, you could keep the mosquito population down by pouring toxic pesticides into the lagoons, but that would only further damage the ground water. Given the plant’s footprint, and the fact that there are 5-6 acres of land that are not going to be needed for the plant, one has to believe that the rest of the land will be used for lagoons.
- EEP LLC:
- Has never implemented a project such as this. (Proposal 1.3.2, emphasis added) “Our team has a number of projects that are related to all aspects of a Waste to Energy project.” They may be related to, but they are not the same as their proposal. In fact, no one has successfully integrated these technologies and then implemented them as a plant anywhere in the United States; the few that are implemented world-wide have largely failed. In their proposal. EEP even stated that they are a “development stage company” with no operations or significant assets.
- EEP does not provide the technical oversight and management for this project, Creative Energy Systems does, and Energy Funding Partners, LLC provides the bulk of its finances. The joint venture is structured to ensure that EEP is responsible if the project fails or has a disaster, but EEP has no assets of its own to cover liabilities (Proposal 1.1).
- On February 13, 2013, Dominion Resources Services, Inc. Legal Counsel filed paperwork with the North Carolina Utilities Commission, Docket No. E-100, Sub 127, containing copies of all contracts and amendments signed in 2012 with VA Electric and Power Company and qualifying facilities in response to a court order. Starting on page 84, the next 18 pages deal with the agreement between VA Power and EEP (thereafter called “Operator”). The date of the agreement is August 16, 2012.
i. On page 1 of 18, the second paragraph states: “WHEREAS, Operator[EEP] owns and operates a municipal waste-to-energy generating facility that is located at 489 Eskimo Hill Road, Stafford, Virginia 22554…” The RFP wasn’t issued until October 2012, almost 2 months after EEP claimed to “own and operate” the plant. Their agreement with VA Power was based on an untrue statement.
ii. In Section 4, line 6, page 3 of 18, the PPA construction was to have begun by February 1, 2013. Any EEP claims to have a certified PPA would seem to be invalid because no construction has begun by the requisite date.
- EEP’s equipment vendor, ACTI, claims to have experience building Waste To Energy (WtE) units “which will be used at the Oneida Reservation in Wisconsin” (Proposal 1.1). On May 5, 2013, the tribe prohibited the project. “Green Bay also approved a conditional use permit, but pulled it more than 20 months later over misstatements about emissions. The pulling of the permit in Green Bay has been upheld in 2 court decisions.” (WTAQ news, 1/30/13). Despite claims that the facility using the same technology vendor would have no smoke stacks, a review of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Permit shows that there would be three 40 foot tall cooling towers and a 65 foot tall gas flare, the latter of which could be troublesome for the Stafford County airport.
- The projects cited in the EEP proposal, in Benin, Africa, in Los Angeles, and in Wisconsin are not the same type plants as EEP proposes. The African plant is not a pyrolysis plant, the LA plant is a very small, proof-of-concept plant, and the Wisconsin plant has been killed (including being upheld in 2 courts) because of problems with the permit applications. The presiding judge, Judge Marc Hammer, in ruling for the city of Green Bay states “If anything there is inconsistencies, but to be frank, I think there was misrepresentation.”
- The technology:
- Has an abysmal track record – so far, failing in every instance. According to the Rubber Manufacturers Association “Major tire companies like Goodyear and Firestone once invested “immense resources” in pyrolysis…” The road is littered with the carnage of people who were trying to make this technology viable.” Those companies have given up attempts to use that technology because of the cost and adverse environmental impact.
- The proposal supposedly uses “newer technology” than that used in the prior failed attempts, but that only proves that the company and the technology are unproven.
- The waste-to energy plant is actually a toxic oil manufacturing plant, whose financial success hinges on being able to generate toxic oil that will be sold in unknown markets.
- No other project has been functioning long enough to determine whether pyrolysis can actually meet stated power generation requirements. All sites burned at different temperatures, so there is no way to prove EEP’s technology will work consistently.
- No other project using similar technology has ever relied on using tires as the predominant material for pyrolysis, so there has never been an environmental impact analysis of tire ash. Tires contain multiple hazardous compounds, and EPA studies show shredded tires can release arsenic, lead and mercury into the surrounding area, so the process used to shred tires in Stafford will release these materials even before the pyrolysis stage of the project begins. Tires are manufactured from petrochemical feedstocks such as styrene and butadiene, both extremely carcinogenic, and they can also contain benzene, chloroprene, polybutadiene, lead, and other toxic substances.
- All research shows that this type of project is not suited for the venture capital market. It requires that venture capital companies be willing to invest vast amounts of capital into projects that have a long history of failure. This is a prohibitively expensive method of treating garbage.
- “As with most refuse-to-energy facilities, it is typically only economical to site gasification facilities near urban centers” (CA Energy Commission, “Municipal Solid Waste Power Plants.” http://www.energy.ca.gov/biomass/msw.html)
- In defending their technology, the CEO of EEP referenced two facilities. The UK facility is actually using 100% municipal solid waste, not a waste mixture using 30% to 70% tires. The second project is on a research scale, where the National Renewable Energy Laboratory converts wood and corn stalks (not 90 to 100 tons of tires per day) to experimental fuel.
- Impact on water and sewage systems in Stafford
- EEP omitted the exact quantity of water needed to run the facility, nor where the water would come from. Without large amounts of water, the electricity cannot be generated via steam turbines.
- “…the preference is the direct discharge to local sewer” (Proposal 6.2). EEP omits the impact of dumping wastewater into the sewage system in Stafford [Proposal 2.3(4)].
- “Lagoons” are a possible solution to waste water, which includes “condensate from the syngas condenser” (Proposal 6.1). EEP omits management of the lagoons: mosquitoes, stench, overflow from excess rain, and the quality of the water that would be released into the sewers/lagoons.
- Financial impact:
- The $100,000 lease fees are far too generous to EEP – The R-board is leasing 11 acres for $8,500 per month.
- The plant will not generate taxes since the tax on tools and machinery has been repealed.
- Given the possible impact of a disaster, EEP LLC should have a very huge insurance policy to cover the potential costs; their LLC protects only companies with any assets.
- EEP cites their PPA with Dominion Power as part of the working capital available to them (Proposal 5.1). That PPA would appear to be no longer in effect, since construction has not begun by the due date.
- Stafford County misinformation campaign to justify their actions:
- Some members of the Stafford BOS have claimed that opponents are providing misinformation, are alarmists, are claiming that children will die, and the like. From a citizen’s perspective, taking a controversial, potentially hazardous project out of the public eye, like was done here, feeds citizens’ mistrust of their government. It is clear that some of the members of the BOS understood that this project would be controversial, and knowingly took it behind closed doors to keep the public from understanding what was about to happen. It would behoove the Stafford BOS to emulate the actions of the Fredericksburg City Council and allow the public to know what is going on instead of hiding it. Issuing a FAQ on August 14, 2012, the day after the BOS meeting, that clearly misstates the issues only compounds the problem and leads citizens to question what the motives of the backers are, and why they would issue misleading statements.
- The Stafford BOS has increasingly shortened the expected lifespan of the landfill to make the problem seem more acute than it is. Under scrutiny, the project makes less and less sense, so some members of the BOS have made the problem seem more immediate than it is. “Running out of landfill space” is the primary reason given for the “urgency” of the project, but the figures keep changing to suit the bias of some Stafford Board members.
i. On August 14th, just one day after the vote to rescind further action on the landfill lease, the County home page was changed to state that Cell F has a “projected 3-year operational life.” That’s surprisingly short considering the $3M-$4M cost. Is that how the $2.35M in FY12 county taxpayer funds were used by the R-Board? Why will no one answer?
ii. The 2012 R-Board annual report on page 5 states the life of the cell is up to 10 years.
iii. Mr. Milde stated at the August 13, 2013 BOS meeting that the landfill had 20 years left, and Mr. Snelling, later in that same meeting, stated that the cell life was 10 years.
iv. On page 7 of the EEP proposal it states that this facility will result in a 7 fold increase in the lifetime of the landfill cell.
v. The Chair of the R-Board, Mr. Milde, is quoted in a June 5th FLS article stating that “the project will extend the life span of the landfill hundreds of years …”
vi. The background report for the rescinding resolution states the “life of the landfill will be extended indefinitely.”
vii. In the Virginia DEQ annual report, the life expectancy of the landfill was listed as .8 in the 2012, which is less than one year, but is now listed as 55 years in the 2013 report.
- The county claims that that “1 proposer subsequently withdrew from consideration – for evaluation.” The letter from a technical team member for that proposal was dated June 3, 2013. The Agreement signed by the Chair of the R-Board was dated April 22, 2013. Conversations with the 2 losing vendors (Recovered Energy Resources, Inc. and LEEP Holdings, LLC) reveals that both deny withdrawing their proposal. Per the RFP, to withdraw a proposal, the vendor has to submit a written letter requesting that their proposal be withdrawn. So far, we have been unable to obtain a copy of that withdrawal letter. The RFP also states that at least 2 vendors will undergo discussions with the R-Board about their proposal, but both losing vendors state that they never entered into any discussions with the R-Board. There seem to be some irregularities with the RFP evaluation.
- Some members of the Stafford BOS claimed not to know there was tire incineration as part of the proposal, and that the plant would not produce hazardous, toxic waste. Simply reading the proposal, or the lease, or the Agreement would have enlightened everyone, as they are all clear that toxic, hazardous waste would be created. If anyone did read them, why would they attempt to hide those facts?
- Mr. Milde, at the August 13, 2013 Stafford County BOS meeting stated that the Stafford County R-Board has a good faith agreement to award to EEP. He never clarified what he meant by that. Was that agreement the reason why EEP signed a contract with VA Electric and Power Company claiming they owned and operated a plant at Eskimo Road in Stafford two months before the RFP was issued? It would be good to get that clarified.