- Waste Connections' JED Landfill in Florida is expected to stop accepting coal ash shipments from Puerto Rico as soon as this week, according to a report at the Osceola County Board of Commissioners meeting on Monday.
- According to Chair Cheryl Grieb, this will mean canceling an amendment to the company's county agreement. "So therefore, after the last is taken this week, then they will no longer take any coal ash from outside the state of Florida — which was the original agreement," she said. "We've asked them if they would consider stopping it totally, and they will not. It's within their rights."
- Prior to the announcement, consultants from Jones Edmunds also outlined how they had observed recent metals testing at the site with no issues. One commissioner's request for additional testing outside of the site — potentially to detect high amounts of ash blowing off trucks — was not approved.
Osceola County's original 2002 contract with Omni Waste (a Waste Connections subsidiary) didn't become a focal point until the board amended it to take new material in April. Under that deal, the county receives $2 per ton for any material originating outside its borders, among other provisions. Once news of the deal became public in May, the situation escalated quickly.
In a series of back and forth letters, the board asked Waste Connections to stop taking coal ash from Puerto Rico. The company declined, citing existing obligations to its customer — the AES Puerto Rico power plant. Original plans were for the JED site to accept up to 200,000 tons of this material by the end of the year, with shipments likely to end by Oct. 1. Now, pending written confirmation by the company, it appears the timeline has changed yet again.
Jones Edmunds was brought in over the summer to consult on groundwater testing and regulatory matters. Through ongoing communication with the company and Florida's Department of Environmental Protection, it appears the site has been meeting all permit requirements. The DEP also permits coal ash disposal at 40 other landfills and 12 monofills throughout Florida. Osceola County only has standing to influence shipments from Puerto Rico, as they originate outside the state.
Coal ash disposal has been eyed as a potentially lucrative business line by major landfill operators for years, especially following the EPA's 2015 coal combustion residual rule. Developed in response to multiple spills at coal ash ponds, the regulation was intended to tighten storage requirements and likely drive more material to landfills. Puerto Rico has no landfills suitable for the material and has been seeking export options.
While the Obama-era rule has been uncertain under the Trump administration, coal ash disposal has continued, and companies are watching the situation closely. Waste Management highlighted coal ash as an existing business opportunity as recently as last month in its Q2 earnings call. The EPA proposed changes to the 2015 rule that would loosen requirements for utilities just days later, adding further uncertainty.