Pacific Waste Management Corp. has failed to meet key air pollution requirements for construction of a controversial trash-to-energy plant in Irwindale, the South Coast Air Quality Management District reported last week.
The report is a setback for Pacific Waste, which has been trying for about two years to get licensing for the plant from the state Energy Commission.
"We're very pleased," said Carl Sonne, an attorney for Miller Brewing Co., which is across the Foothill Freeway from the plant's proposed location and has led the fight against the incinerator.
Sonne said the report sets the stage for the state Energy Commission to terminate Pacific Waste's application to build the plant.
However, Joseph W. Schilli, who has managed Pacific Waste's effort to obtain air pollution offset credits, disputed the AQMD analysis. He said he believes the air district disallowed valid credits.
Pacific Waste is seeking to build a plant that in its first stage would burn 2,250 tons of trash a day to generate electricity for sale to Southern California Edison Co. The plant would be expanded to burn 3,000 tons of trash a day in a second stage of construction.
Air pollution regulations require Pacific Waste to provide some means of offsetting five types of pollutants that its proposed incinerator would release into the air. The offset credits, created by pollution reductions, can come from plants in a four-county area that either have closed or shut down polluting equipment or cleaned up pollution beyond legal requirements. Pacific Waste either can buy credits from companies or create credits by paying companies to install pollution control equipment.
Pacific Waste says it has arranged to obtain offset credits from 10 companies, two cities and a water district in Los Angeles and Orange counties. But the air district in its screening analysis disallowed some of the credits.
The AQMD report, signed by Sanford M. Weiss, director of engineering, and Robert R. Pease, supervising engineer, said its analysis shows that Pacific Waste has sufficient offset credits for reactive organic gases and sulfur dioxide but has only 73.5% of the required credits for oxides of nitrogen, 82.3% of the required credits for carbon monoxide and 85.2% of the required credits for particulate matter.
Schilli said the disallowed credits stem from differing interpretations of air pollution regulations.
For example, he noted, the air district disallowed offset credits obtained from plants operated by Kern Foods in the City of Industry and General Foods in Hollywood because it said the polluting equipment was not shut down within the time frame allowed under the regulations. AQMD officials said the credits are valid only if the shut-down occurred within 90 days of the proposed plant's application for a permit. Schilli said he believes other AQMD regulations apply that would make the credits valid.
Garrett Shean, Energy Commission hearing officer, said a hearing will be scheduled to consider the AQMD report and to decide the next step. The Energy Commission's committee in charge of the case has threatened to terminate Pacific Waste's application unless the company could produce the required offset credits.
Sonne said Miller will urge the committee to end the proceedings because Pacific Waste has failed to obtain offset credits for more than two years .
Terry O. Kelly, another attorney retained by Miller to fight the incinerator project, said that many of the offset credits accepted in the AQMD report might be disallowed under further analysis. The report noted that Miller Brewing Co. has raised numerous objections to the offsets but that these objections have not yet been considered.
The AQMD report came just two weeks after Pacific Waste obtained a favorable ruling from the Energy Commission that reduced the number of required offsets by allowing the company to propose construction in two stages, reducing the plant's initial capacity and the amount of pollution to be offset.
The air district based its analysis on the reduced requirements but still found the company lacking in offset credits.