UPDATE: The Southeastern Public Service Authority Board in Virginia voted on Oct. 25 to keep sending material to Wheelabrator's Portsmouth WTE until at least Jan. 31, 2019, as reported by The Virginian-Pilot. This is seen as a way to give the board more time to consider long-term options after previous plans with RePower South fell through over the summer. The board also proposed a plan to cut tipping fees for its eight member localities in half. The new rate, beginning in January, would be $65 per ton if the board finalizes the plan after a December public hearing.
- The Southeastern Public Service Authority (SPSA) expects to extend a current contract with Wheelabrator at its Portsmouth, VA refuse-derived fuel facility — at least on a short-term basis — after previous plans with RePower South fell apart last month, as reported by The Virginian-Pilot.
- While their current $125 tip fee is seen as too high, the SPSA board believes that could be cut roughly in half. After initially carrying a debt of $300 million, which was reduced to $150 million by the sale of the Portsmouth facility to Wheelabrator, the SPSA made its last payment this month. Officials now expect to save an estimated $11 million per year.
- The SPSA board is set to vote on a Wheelabrator contract extension of anywhere from six months to a year at its upcoming Oct. 25 meeting. At that same meeting, the board could also vote on a plan to reduce tip fees for SPSA's eight member cities and counties as well as begin discussing longer term disposal plans.
Approval of the $100 million RePower South project sparked significant discussion last year, much of it from Wheelabrator, but that all came to an abrupt end in August. While the project had received appropriate state and local permits to move forward, losing a significant buyer for its fuel pellets and missing a financial close deadline were seen as fatal. The project had also been criticized by environmental groups for its proposed methods. This put SPSA back at the beginning in terms of deciding what to do with the tens of thousands of tons of material being generated by its members each month.
One option may be to sign a new long-term contract with Wheelabrator. The SPSA has also considered expanding capacity at its own landfill in Suffolk. Earlier this year, the authority was faced with a short-term crisis after it discovered 10 million gallons of leachate had built up at the site. Though in the months since, that problem has been mitigated more quickly than expected and is reportedly under control according to the SPSA's latest board report.
The full details of what SPSA will be looking for in a new contract aren't yet public, but it has been intimated that Wheelabrator will be qualified to bid on whatever plan they approve. Since SPSA's material makes up a sizable portion of what is being processed at the Portsmouth facility, Wheelabrator can be expected to make a strong effort to keep it that way.