Post 20 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.
Yesterday’s post embedded the first of several memoranda that Donohue prepared for the City of Whitewater for wastewater plant renovations (and as we’ll see, much more than mere renovations). That document is embedded at the bottom of this post, too.
(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. 140.)
140. Donohue’s introduction (sec. 1.1, pg. 2) describes a ‘Strategic Direction Workshop’ that took place on 12.12.13. A few obvious questions: (1) who attended that ‘workshop,’ (2) who invited those attendees (and others not participating), and (3) what notes, if any, were taken from that meeting (other than Memo 1, itself)?
141. Donohue mentions a 12.12.13 meeting in Memo 1, but omits an earlier meeting on 11.5.13 at which representatives of Donohue, Trane, Black & Veatch, the City of Whitewater, and a waste hauler were present. Why does Donohue omit mention of this earlier meeting?
142. Section 2.3, page 3 (‘Water’) states that “[t]he value of water was discussed in detail….The option of producing a sellable water product is of major interest to the city.”
Donohue contends that this is a ‘major interest’ to city officials, yet why is this goal never mentioned among the objectives listed in the public presentation of Messrs. Clapper and Reel in March 2015 or at a public presentation of June 2015?
(For a review of the March 2015 presentation, see Fifteen Months Later, at the School Board; a detailed discussion of the June presentation will be forthcoming.)
143. Is Donohue wrong about Whitewater’s priorities, or is Whitewater unwilling to discuss those priorities in public presentations?
144. If Donohue should be right about Whitewater’s actual priorities, then why wouldn’t city officials mention those priorities?
145. If Donohue should be wrong about these priorities, then why would the city publish these memos uncorrected?
146. Donohue states that ‘[t]he target would be to potentially sell this water product to the adjacent power plant.”
Which parties have an interest in that power plant?
147. What inquiries, if any, have the owners of the power plant made about acquiring water from the city? What replies, if any, have they received from Whitewater’s officials?
148. Under Section 3.1, Strategic Direction, Donohue writes that “[o]verall, the City of Whitewater has a desire to embrace the idea of converting to a resource recovery facility.”
If this is Whitewater’s ‘overall’ goal, and if it involves a conversion from one approach to another, isn’t this confirmation (yet again) that Messrs. Clapper and Reel plan a change in Whitewater’s approach, rather than an in-line modernization?
149. If the overall goal is a new approach, how does this affect the relative importance of facilities upgrades as against a scheme of waste importation? Doesn’t this plan depart from past practices, while cloaked in the garb of mere upgrades?
150. I’ve written before that a project like this should be evaluated fiscally, economically, environmentally, in consideration of pubic health, and as it influences Whitewater’s business culture.
In Section 3.2, Donohue outlines its Economic Evaluation:
A full economic evaluation will be developed for each alternative. Several key economic factors related to energy and financial values are critical for the economic evaluation. For this first report, the following assumptions will be made for the annual rates:
Discount rate: 3% (National Institute of Standards, Annual Supplement to NIST Handbook 135)
Inflation Rate: 0.5% (National Institute of Standards, Annual Supplement to NIST Handbook 135)
Natural Gas Escalation Rate: 2% (National Institute of Standards, Annual Supplement to NIST
Electricity Escalation Rate: 2% (National Institute of Standards, Annual Supplement to NIST
The initial energy values will be based on the 2013 budgeted values. The initial energy value assumptions were:
Electrical rate: $0.086/kwh
Using these economic evaluation criteria, a simple payback analysis and a 20-year total present worth savings can be developed. A similar Life Cycle Cost Analysis will be developed for each alternative.
How is listing a few metrics – apparently ones general to America rather than specific to our market – the basis of an economic analysis? Wouldn’t an economic analysis, by definition, require a study of the ‘production, development, and management of material wealth of a country, household, or business enterprise’? An economic analysis would be the influence of the project of Whitewater’s economy, not the mere cost or price of various components and ingredients of the project. Some of what’s being presented as economic is merely fiscal (that is, budgetary).
151. If Donohue hasn’t done an economic analysis, specific to Whitewater, what does this say about the scope and thoroughness of its work?
152. If Donohue hasn’t done a specific economic analysis like this, then why haven’t City Manager Clapper or Wastewater Superintendent Reel done so?
153. Does Donohue’s work include a comprehensive fiscal analysis – not merely on rates, but on the city’s budgetary health – of this $20.7 million-dollar plan?
154. If Donohue hasn’t done a specific fiscal analysis like this, then why haven’t City Manager Clapper or Wastewater Superintendent Reel done so?
155. Does Donohue’s work include a comprehensive environmental analysis, that is, a study of the effects of waste importation into Whitewater on this area’s ecosystem? Why does a ‘strategic direction’ memorandum not even mention environmental impact?
156. Does Donahue’s analysis include a review of the environmental consequences of importing other cities’ unwanted waste (thus procesing far more than that produced by city residents) into our ecosystem? If so, where is that detailed analysis?
157. If Donohue hasn’t done a specific environmental analysis like this, then why haven’t City Manager Clapper or Wastewater Superintendent Reel done so? If these full-time, taxpayer-supported leaders have done this analysis, then where is it?
158. Does Donahue’s analysis include a review of the public health consequences of importing other cities’ unwanted waste (beyond that produced by city residents) into our area? If so, where is that detailed analysis?
159. If Donohue hasn’t done a specific public health analysis like this, then why haven’t City Manager Clapper or Wastewater Superintendent Reel done so? If these full-time, taxpayer-supported leaders have done this analysis, then where is it?
160. Does Donahue’s examination include a review of the influence on our business culture of long-term relationships with waste haulers, including the few members of the business establishment who might have an interest in profiting by trucking other cities’ unwanted waste into Whitewater?
161. If Donohue hasn’t undertaken that assessment, then why hasn’t City Manager Clapper done so? If he has done so, then where is his analysis?
162. City Manager Clapper has declared a project that includes the importation of other cities’ unwanted waste into Whitewater would be “probably the greenest process we have in the city.” What is his basis for saying as much? Other than merely uttering the claim, what review of the environmental and public health implications of waste hauling would support his declaration?
163. If Whitewater is a city worth one’s care and attention – and she is certainly such a city – then will Whitewater’s full-time city administration exercise this level of care? Is not our city worth at least this much (and much more)?
Donohue Technical Memo 1, Strategic Direction, http://www.whitewater-wi.gov/images/stories/public_works/wastewater/Donohue_Technical_Memo_1_-_Strategic_Direction.pdf.
WHEN GREEN TURNS BROWN: Mondays @ 10 AM, here on FREE WHITEWATER.
There it is. They have a narrow focus and you want a wider one. Keep pushing on some of these points. This has not been thought through. Some of the biggest topics aren’t even considered. Keep pushing.
“Attendee” and I have followed this project, also your series. No it’s not “thought through”. Donohue wants to get something built.They have a limited focus by definition.Everyone else really lives here. Think about how Tim Reel says that since we already have a digester there are no real changes. I guess he must think that’s a clever argument. It got demolished when you pointed out the difference is becoming a net waste importer. Anyone thinking about this would have got that distinction. There is a foresight problem with this team.The longer someone keeps looking the worse it will seem.