UPDATE: Wheelabrator Technologies announced it will challenge the Southeastern Public Service Authority's (SPSA) decision to award RePower South a trash contract, according to The Virginian-Pilot. The waste-to-energy company has been processing the region's trash at its plant in Porthsmouth, VA, and currently provides $3 million to the city in tax revenue and water fees.
The city argues that a contract with RePower would result in a cost of $56.52 per ton of waste, while its contract with Wheelabrator costs $78.72 per ton of waste.
However, Wheelabrator argues that the decision to award a contract to RePower goes against the state's procurement act. "The proposed award is not an honest exercise of discretion, but rather is arbitrary and capricious and not in accordance with applicable state law or the terms and conditions of the RFP," the attorneys’ letter states, as reported in The Virginian-Pilot.
- The Southeastern Public Service Authority’s (SPSA) board voted for a "notice of intent to award" Spartanburg, SC-based RePower South a trash contract. The company would build a waste facility in Chesapeake, VA, and sort and sell recyclables, with remaining trash converted to electricity and sold to utilities.
- The plan has met strong opposition from two areas as it calls for hauling 135,000 tons of waste a year to SPSA’s Suffolk landfill, and includes a backup plan to send all of the area’s eight communities' solid waste to that landfill. If the backup plan were implemented, two cells would exceed capacity in 2027— six years short of the 15-year commitment expected of SPSA's communities to handle waste there, according to the Virginian-Pilot.
- The opposing votes were cast by representatives from Beach City, the region’s largest garbage generator, and from the landfill’s home: Suffolk. Both of the city’s manager’s expressed concerns over addressing their communities’ needs. In January, Beach City called for SPSA to work with Suffolk to extend the landfill’s life a minimum of 50 years. While neither city threatened to back out of the Authority, the Virginian-Pilot broached this possibility, claiming, if it happened, the plan could be "doomed" and that the Authority itself could be "in jeopardy."
If all of the region’s waste were sent to the landfill, it could amount to 350,000 tons a year or more — a big deal for Suffolk and the whole region. Virginia Beach council members want to explore alternatives to participating in SPSA’s post-2018 plan, and if Virginia Beach will not stand behind the plan, the SPSA will not meet the volume it is committed to generate.
William Sorrentino Jr., a Beach City SPSA board member, said approving the plan would be a big mistake — at least until every possible measure has been taken to assure a landfill expansion backup. "That’s our security blanket if RePower doesn’t work," he said.
Suffolk City Manager Patrick Roberts is equally skeptical, commenting the "good neighbor agreement" would need to detail how Suffolk would be compensated for the impact on its landfill and Suffolk. Further, if RePower’s plan failed, he said, "Everything would seem to have to go to the landfill. And we’re talking upwards of 375,000 tons a year, so it starts to fill up quickly."
Rowland "Bucky" Taylor, SPSA’s executive director, anticipates all entities will come to an agreement before the April 27 SPSA board meeting. RePower’s current proposal would need to be ratified by May 15. RePower’s 15-year contract would begin January 2018, costing about $56.52 a ton, compared to $78.72 a ton proposed by competitor Wheelabrator.
Meanwhile, these complex issues are being addressed at a time when SPSA may change its waste-to-energy program — which could have another set of adverse effects, though they would impact the U.S. Navy.