What does the budget deal mean for the waste industry?
- President Donald Trump signed on Friday a 652-page, two-year budget deal. The budget includes an additional $6.2 million for "necessary expenses" for the "Hazardous Substance Superfund" to help repair and clean sites that were damaged by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.
- Also included is a one-year retroactive expansion of tax credits for biomass and biofuel projects. Similar credits for other sources of renewable fuel are extended into the future.
- Executive Director of the American Biogas Council Patrick Serfass said in an emailed statement, "the Act will virtually kill the development of new biogas-electricity projects by giving a 30% advantage to many other renewable electricity projects."
Ultimately, the budget deal may have a limited effect on the industry, in part because of both political compromises and because of the local nature of waste and recycling.
Notable, however, is the additional appropriation to the Superfund project. The $6.2 million is a significant amount of additional funding for damaged projects, especially considering President Trump's proposed budget makes large cuts to the Superfund project. The extra money could help out at sites such as in Houston, where progress has stalled because of negotiations between the government and potentially responsible parties.
Today, Trump is expected to lay out his budget plans for the next year and it is likely that, like last year, his plans will include steep proposed cuts. However, Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee Thad Cochran has proposed keeping the Superfund appropriations at $1.1 billion.
The lack of tax credits to the biofuel industry could dampen spirits in that sector. New anaerobic digestion (AD) facilities are capital-intensive, and extending tax credits to some forms of renewable energy — including wind and solar — can make it difficult for biofuel producers to compete.
The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) will be another space to watch. The RFS affects AD and landfill gas projects, among others, so changes to the program can mean shifts in investment. Any changes to the RFS could lead to dynamic, on-going debate: Trump has repeatedly endorsed the program, while EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has expressed concerns over fraud. Additionally, Republicans in the Senate have been battling for weeks now over the RFS and whether the program is harmful to oil refiners.
- Senate Appropriations Committee Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018
Follow Cody Boteler on Twitter