Pacific Waste Management Corp. has revived its beleaguered effort to win state Energy Commission approval to build a waste-to-energy plant in Irwindale by signing an agreement with a Carson company to supply most of the proposed plant's trash.
However, the agreement does not provide enough trash to meet Energy Commission requirements unless the commission accepts the company's plan to build the plant in stages, starting with 2,250 tons of trash a day instead of the originally proposed 3,000.
Critics immediately attacked the agreement, charging that it raises questions about the financial soundness of the waste-to-energy project, that trash would be imported from the South Bay to Irwindale and that air pollution from truck traffic would increase.
Even if the agreement withstands scrutiny by the Energy Commission, which has spent two years considering a permit for the plant, Pacific Waste faces numerous other hurdles, including strong opposition from neighboring cities and stringent air pollution requirements.
Richard Richards, attorney for Pacific Waste, said the trash agreement with Western Waste Industries meets the commission's requirement that Pacific Waste line up 75% of the trash the plant would burn to create electricity.
The agreement calls for Western Waste to deliver 2,000 tons of trash six days a week to Irwindale from the day the plant opens until Dec. 21, 2013. It does not specify where the trash will come from, and neither Western Waste officials nor their attorney, Graham Ritchie, would comment beyond the contract.
Terry O'Brien, project manager for the Energy Commission, said there is a question whether the waste-supply agreement is adequate.
Originally, Pacific Waste planned to build a plant that would burn 3,000 tons of trash a day. The commission in September ordered the company to obtain waste-supply commitments for 75% of that amount by Dec. 1 or risk termination of licensing proceedings.
In September, Pacific Waste revised its plans with the intention of building the plant in two stages, starting with a capacity of 2,250 tons of trash a day. Attorneys for Pacific Waste argued in papers filed with the commission this week that it should base its waste-commitment requirement on the reduced plant capacity.
O'Brien said 2,000 tons of trash a day would be enough only if the commission accepted Pacific Waste's argument.
The commission will not rule on Pacific Waste's request to build the plant in two stages until it decides another matter, that of the number of air-pollution offset credits Pacific Waste will have to provide before the plant can be licensed.
Pacific Waste last month unsuccessfully sought a Los Angeles Superior Court order to set aside the Energy Commission requirement that it line up trash commitments.
Commission attorneys argued that the commission must know where the trash will be hauled from in order to study disposal alternatives and analyze traffic impact. The company argued that ample trash would be available but that it could get trash commitments at this stage only by offering financial inducements.
In its trash agreement with Western, Pacific Waste agreed to charge $2.50 per ton less than the average price charged by dumps in Los Angeles County, adjusted quarterly during the 27-year life of the contract. The county's largest dump, Puente Hills, charges $7 a ton.
Duarte Mayor John Van Doren, who has strongly opposed the project, said he believes the "sweetheart deal" represented by the discount offered to Western could lower projected income to the point where the project would no longer be economically feasible.
Pacific Waste officials have been unwilling to discuss financing in detail.
The incineration plant would have two sources of income: fees charged for accepting trash and payments made by Southern California Edison Co. for the purchase of electricity.
Although the trash agreement does not specify where Western would get the trash to deliver to Irwindale, most of the company's business is near its headquarters in Carson.
William Goedike, Western's vice president for contract administration, said the company collects trash from households in 10 to 12 cities, mostly in the South Bay and including only Sierra Madre in the San Gabriel Valley, picks up industrial and commercial trash from the San Fernando Valley east to Riverside and runs a large transfer station in Carson for its own trucks and other haulers.
Goedike said the company hauls trash to dumps from its Carson transfer station, using large trucks that have three times the capacity of an ordinary trash truck. The transfer station is open to the public and the trash that is unloaded there could come from anywhere, he said.
The waste-supply agreement with Pacific notes that Western unloads more than 2,000 tons of trash a day at the BKK landfill in West Covina, Puente Hills landfill in Hacienda Heights and a landfill in Azusa.