Post 38 in a series. When Green Turns Brown is an examination of a small town’s digester-energy project, in which Whitewater, Wisconsin would import other cities’ waste, claiming that the result would be both profitable and green.
In this post, I’ll consider a portion of the public comments at the 12.16.14 meeting, following earlier posts about the meeting (Parts 1 and 2).
(A full recording of the 12.16.14 discussion is embedded at the bottom of this post for ready reference.)
(Every question in this series has a unique number, assigned chronologically based on when it was asked. All the questions from When Green Turns Brown can be found in the Question Bin. Today’s questions begin with No. 230.)
230. At approximately forty-five minutes into the discussion, Wastewater Superintendent Reel compares the regulatory limit for phosphorus for Whitewater and Beloit. He observes that Whitewater’s regulatory phosphorus limit will be .075 mg/L, while Beloit’s will be .2 mg/L, and that Beloit has a higher limit because Beloit discharges into a larger body of water. Isn’t this an admission that Whitewater’s ecosystem cannot manage the same volume of chemical discharge, generally, that other, geographically larger or geographically more diffusive areas can manage?
231. If it should be true (that Whitewater’s ecosystem cannot manage the same volume of chemical discharge, generally, that other, geographically larger or geographically more diffusive areas can manage), then why would Whitewater be a city seeking to import large quantities of waste from other cities?
232. CDA member (and business lobby president) Larry Kachel asks how many people the plant – now – can accommodate by population. Why can’t Superintendent Reel answer with a ready number of how many people?
233. Reel states that the plant’s capacity was designed to accommodate large businesses no longer in the city (dairy Hawthorne-Melody, for example). Is the upgrade being designed with that same greater-than-now needed capacity?
234. If so (that is, if Whitewater new proposal is using a floor that’s based on industrial needs no longer present in the city), then how will that over-capacity be used?
235. At about fifty-six minutes into the discussion, Donohue representative Mike Gerbitz (in answer to a question) says that communities like Whitewater often fund projects like this via subsidized loans rather than bonds because those communities would not qualify for bonds issued (in this case, projected) at 2.7%, and that they take the subsidized loans because it doesn’t reflect in the same way against their borrowing capacity. Isn’t this a tacit admission that the full project cost is outside Whitewater’s capacity to borrow in an unsubsidized, free market?
236. Do city officials think – regardless of how a loan is treated in the formal accounting of it – that the cost of the project by a loan with interest or in bonds with interest is not an obligation?
237. Donohue representative Nathan Cassity, PE speaks beginning at about 1:07 in the presentation about a digester-energy project. Cassity cites a study from Trane that he contends projected a large digester-energy plan that would not be cost effective ($12.4 million in cost, $800,000 in debt service, but only $450,000-560,000 in revenue). Did Cassity see Trane’s completed study (he implies that he did)? Has the full Trane study been released? If not, then why not?
238. Cassity talks about the possibility of importing “high-strength” waste into the facility to generate revenue in a “baby step approach.” What kinds of high-strength waste does he mean?
239. In what probable amounts, and by kind of waste and proportion to the whole amount imported, would that high-strength waste be?
240. What would be the maximum capacity of the waste importation into the digester by Cassity’s proposal?
241. Cassity talks about moving from the initial approach on waste importation to a “phased” increase in waste importation, about which he contends “he has more [information],” but does not disclose. He doesn’t describe, for example, how much more waste that “phased” importation would entail, or of what type it would be. Why hasn’t the plan for phased, increased importation of outside waste – one that Cassity says that he had as of (at least) 12.16.14 – been released?
242. How is it that – in a scheduled presentation – neither Donohue representatives nor city employees can answer, specifically, questions about item costs or supposed greater efficiencies?
243. Who was, by Gerbitz’s account, the attorney who worked with Reel to develop a plan to pay a charge in lieu of removal, rather than actual removal, of phosphorus? How many times did Reel meet with that attorney? Who else, if anyone, was at those meetings?
244. As compared with point-source phosphorus reductions (that is, at municipal plants), how much phosphorus reduction will municipal payments to county agencies produce? (That is, not whether those payments will be cheaper, but how much payments under something like the CWHE Act will actually reduce phosphorus)?
Next, tomorrow: The Pilot Program.
WHEN GREEN TURNS BROWN: Mondays @ 10 AM, here on FREE WHITEWATER.