News


Palo Alto wrestles with composting dilemma

Environmentalists get an early look at the potential costs of a local anaerobic-digestion plant

The battle between Palo Alto's environmentalists over the future of local composting resumed Wednesday night when both sides of the debate packed into a meeting to learn more about the costs of building a local waste-to-energy plant.

What they learned was that when it comes to new waste-processing technologies, there are no cheap or simple options.

A standing-room-only crowd of about 60 people met at the Lucie Stern Community Center Wednesday to get an early peek at the feasibility study for a local anaerobic-digestion plant -- a proposal that continues to both inspire and outrage Palo Alto's green leaders. The plant would process local yard trimmings, food scraps and sewage and convert these materials into methane, which could then be used as natural gas or converted to electricity.

The study, which Public Works staff and consultant James Binder from the firm Alternative Resources, Inc., presented Wednesday, indicates that top composting technology comes with a hefty price tag. If Palo Alto were to build an anaerobic-digestion plant, it would have to pay more to dispose of each ton of organic waste than if it shipped this waste to other facilities in the region.

The draft study that staff and the consultant presented Wednesday considers four different potential uses for a local anaerobic-digestion plant. In each scenario, the city would use dry anaerobic digestion for yard trimmings and food waste. The only variable is what the city does with biosolids. In each case, the cost of processing waste in an anaerobic-digestion plant amounts to more than $100 per ton (in two scenarios, close to $200 per ton).

Shipping local yard trimmings and food waste to facilities in Gilroy and San Jose would cost about $70 per ton, the study shows, though this figure doesn't consider factors such as the rising cost of gasoline. This option also assumes that Palo Alto would continue to incinerate its sewage sludge -- a practice that many local environmentalists want to see come to an end.

Binder told the Weekly that the capital costs for a local anaerobic-digestion plant could range between $25 million to about $100 million, depending on the type of technology the city chooses and the plant's capacity.

"There is quite a variation of costs for the different types of technologies," Binder said at the meeting.

So far, anaerobic digestion has been used primarily in Europe, with countries such as Germany, Italy and Spain taking the lead in the emerging field. Each country uses the technology in a different way and for a different objective, Binder said.

The European companies also tend to have different priorities than Palo Alto when it comes to waste management. Their main objective, Binder said, is to reduce the volume of material heading to the landfill. They don't particularly care about the compost product, he said.

In Palo Alto, by contrast, composting is a top concern. The city's current composting facility is located at a landfill at Byxbee Park. The landfill is scheduled to close next year, at which time the site is slated to convert to parkland. A large coalition of environmentalists, led by former Mayor Peter Drekmeier, is calling for the city to build a new anaerobic-digestion plant at a 9-acre site in the landfill, next to the Regional Water Quality Control Plant, so that the city could take care of its own waste and retire the incinerators.

Other environmentalists, including former Vice Mayor Emily Renzel and former Councilwoman Enid Pearson, counter that Byxbee Park should revert to public parkland when the landfill closes. If that happens, Palo Alto's food waste and yard trimmings would then be shipped to a composting facility in Gilroy.

The City Council is similarly split about the proposed plant. In April, the council voted 5-4 to conduct the feasibility study. The council also voted 5-4 to have staff evaluate regional opportunities for waste management.

To make the Byxbee Park land available for a new waste-to-energy plant, city voters would need to "undedicate" the dedicated parkland site. Drekmeier's coalition has already received the required number of signatures to place the issue on the November ballot.

Tom Jordan, a land-use attorney who opposes a new plant at Byxbee Park, argued Wednesday that the Baylands site is actually owned by the state, rather than the city, and that Palo Alto can't build a waste facility on land it doesn't own. Last week, Jordan, Renzel and Pearson filed a petition with the State Lands Commission asking the agency to enforce its ownership of the land.

"The city does not own the land and does not have permission to build on the land," Jordan said at the meeting.

Assistant Public Works Director Phil Bobel said the city and the state have long disagreed over who owns the Baylands. Palo Alto and the State Lands Commission have an agreement that allows the city to lease the land at no cost. The lease also requires Palo Alto to modify its lease with the state if it wants to build something in the Baylands.

Bobel also noted that the city already has several different agreements with the state relating to waste-management facilities in the Baylands, including the landfill and the wastewater plant.

Renzel pointed out that the preliminary report didn't consider what it would cost to redesign Byxbee Park if the city were to build the new plant. The study also does not consider the costs of mitigating the plant's impacts or building a green roof on the facility, she wrote in a letter. All these factors could add to the price tag of building a local facility.

But supporters of the plant suggested that the figures in the preliminary study may in fact exaggerate the cost differences between building a plant in Palo Alto and shipping organic waste elsewhere. The study adds a 30 percent "contingency cost" to the options involving a local anaerobic digestion facility, but does not add such costs to the alternatives involving exportation of waste. Walt Hays, who is supporting a local plant, said the city should add contingency costs to the latter alternatives because of uncertainties over how much exporting waste would ultimately cost.

Drekmeier submitted a letter that also voiced concerns about the study's addition of contingency costs to the Palo Alto options but not to the San Jose one. He also wrote that the study doesn't consider the cost of continuing to incinerate biosolids. If Palo Alto stays on the current path, it would have to bear the costs of retrofitting its incinerators and of bringing them in compliance with new air-quality regulations.

"This makes the cost of continuing to incinerate biosolids artificially low," Drekmeier wrote.

The City Council is scheduled to review the draft feasibility study in late March. The final study is scheduled to be released in the fall.

Comments

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 24, 2011 at 10:43 am

Incredible. The sewage plant isn't going to move anytime soon. The airport is going to stay where it is. The golf course stays. All of the office buildings stay.

The fact that there are some individuals (Renzel et. al.) who cannot compromise, in fact give a little for the greater good, is asinine. Adding the composting center will not change the overall development of the "park" nor will it change the end game of the park.

And I find it incredibly ironic that the supposed environmentalists are opposing a green facility that will do more good than harm.

To Renzel and cohorts: Can you please just think about how silly this has become because you are so darn stubborn and inflexible?

Giving a small portion of land to the composting facility will not hurt or diminish your pet project park.

For sake of all Palo Alto citizens - please be reasonable and give a little to gain a lot for the community.


Posted by member, a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 24, 2011 at 10:56 am

I attended the meeting last night, coming in with an open mind, hoping to become more informed. I knew little about what has become a big issue and decided I should get educated. I left much more informed and totally blown away, though the consultant is still in process with his analysis. But there was a ton of indicators found by him so far that makes this project look impossible for Palo Alto and would be a crime against nature to put it in our Baylands. I really could have gone the other way, but the evidence is overwhelming in favor of NOT doing this project.

I didn't realized how huge a factory must be built to process the waste (food, plant matter, and maybe the stuff left over from the sewage plant) - a complex of many buildings. We were shown many slides of existing factories in Europe, several that were processing about the same amount contemplated in Palo Alto (unless we become a regional waste center and then it would become more economic but even bigger). The complex was huge with many buildings large and small, some multi-storied. Football field-size buildings for trucks to drive into to dump loads of waste into dozens of side bays were shown. Two slides showed mockups of what Palo Alto's plant might look like based on the amount of material estimated - many buildings spread over many acres. The lights, roads, and infrastructure would be enormous.

This is not what I or I think others thought this would be. This is not just a bigger compost pile than what we have in our yards - this is a factory operation no matter what design an architect comes up with. Green roof? That is a fantasy if you think that will "hide" what will be an enormous problem.

And I learned that NO digestion faciltiy in existence does anything with their digested waste other than dump it onto their old-fashioned landfill, having rendered it more compact. Energy production? We must think of the added infrastructure needed in addition to the basic complex though we are told by advocates that we will make a million dollars a year from all our energy production without an iota of evidence to date. That was the big lesson last night - they have been gathering signatures to take 10 acres from our park but have no idea what they are talking about. I hadn't realized that.

Turns out it is a whole LOT more expensive to build and process waste this way than taking it to a regional facility as planned - and that is NOT on the Baylands. For every dollar we spend on anything, we have probably driven our car to earn it, etc., creating more carbon - all which must be considered. The point was made last night by the consultant that one never makes money from processing waste, no matter what you contemplate doing with it. We were told by the consultant that the waste must be enclosed in a building to contain the emissions and odors. And that will drive up the cost substantially.

What is involved in creating the infrastructure for using waste product as gas, car fuel or electricity is yet to be understood, along with the analysis of which alternative - processing here or at a regional facility - creates the most carbon.

No wonder there is no place to put this waste plant. It is irresponsible to build it right by the Bay. Over the years city after city, but for San Jose and a second town, has shut down their bayside industrial and waste operations. Do Palo Altans REALLY want to join this bayside waste-processing minority? What this would do to the habitat of the baylands is beyond real.

I was glad to see 2 council members there - both known to be good with numbers, money, etc., and hope they will keep clear heads.




Posted by svatoid, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Feb 24, 2011 at 11:18 am

Didn't we have some kind of Green ribbon Panel that was supposed to study this and come up with conclusions/recommendations? What happened with that?
To be honest, my hesitancy on the issue is due to the fact that I do not trust the leader behind the whole idea--Peter Drekmeier. I think that his thinking is skewed by his filtering EVERYTHING through his green glasses. During his years bashing Stanford and during his tenure on the city council I have come to see him as someone who is so blinded by his ideals that he has no clue as to how things work. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] I should add that during his tenure on the council, Drekmeier came across to me as pretty clueless about financial matters.
I also have the feeling that Ms Renzel and Pearson are being a bit too stubborn on this issue. I think they forget that times change and needs change. What was practical in the 60's and 70's may not be feasible today. I think their attitude of "we decided 40 years" ago may not be a solid argument.
However I cannot support the issue now given the leadership behind. Perhaps if someone with more reliable credentials steps up, my mind will be changed.
Interesting that we have not heard any comment from the other big environmentalist in the city, Yoriko Kishimoto, about this matter. Perhaps that would involve actually having to take a stand on a matter.
I know that I am risking the wrath of Bryan Long, by daring to criticize his beloved Mr Drekmeier. But so be it.


Posted by Annette Puskarich, a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 24, 2011 at 11:40 am

The community meeting 2/23/11 was a valuable one. This is a complex study with many variables and assumptions. There is a real need to educate ourselves on the facts and this cannot be done adequately with emotional sound bites on blogs and community forums.

The City web page for the Feasibility Study has many documents posted and provides the model used by the consultant. Here is the link to the web page for more information:

Web Link

Annette


Posted by Dr. A. Cannara, a resident of Menlo Park
on Feb 24, 2011 at 1:03 pm

Not being a Palo Alto resident, I'll not comment on what should be done, but being on the Steering Committee for the concept, and a long-time Sierra-Club member, I'll just make some factual remarks...

The opposition to even the feasibility study seems to know they have weak arguments, and last evening again raised the odd objection that marshland the State of Calif. says it owns, but leases to Palo Alto for "public good", is somehow valued the same as privately owned acreage. Since no structure could be built that doesn't meet the state's clear requirement of public use, there is no value related to common private development. So the high-valuation and lease-cost argument put forth against the project is specious. Oddly, it keeps being repeated, months after it was put down.

The opposition also raised some odd concepts, such as using the current site's dump gas for electrical generation, thus income, to offset some negatives of not building the AD project at all. This is not feasible. In most all cases, dumps (like Palo Alto's or the Marsh Rd. site in Menlo) do not produce useful gas reliably & continually. In those cases where commercial power has been developed, the operator engages in environmentally-damaging actions, such as "spiking" the dump with water injection to speed microbial digestion. This inevitably causes leakage, especially of methane, which is far worse than CO2, as we all should know. It also increases N2O & NOx emissions, the first being >100 times the GHG CO2 is, and the 2nd being the new source of acid rain & ozone depletion. So, the recommendation from scientific studies (and Sierra Club energy groups) is that dump gas simply be burned at the site, without disturbance. In Palo Alto's case, the city already burns whatever they can get from the dump in the sewage-treatment plant, to assist sludge incineration. Of course, that overall practices is not a long-term solution in any case, which is why digestion of sewage is the preferred plan.

One last note on thinking dump gas can easily generate electrical energy -- the gas is itself polluted with CO2, H2S, SO2, Nitrogen oxides, and more, because the bacteria & fungi digesting our garbage did not evolve to give us clean energy gasses -- that may come as a surprise! In particular, the gas isn't at all suitable for pumping to a combustion-generator, because of its lower thermal value and its high corrosivity. The gas has to be cleaned & waste gasses somehow disposed of. This is an energy-intensive exercise, netting little benefit, energy-wise. This is one reason why recommendations are to simply burn dump emissions at the site, eliminating the methane and putting up with the sulphur & nitrogen compounds. Spiking a dump, to increase gas generation, makes all those worse. I'll be happy to share the technical report on that.
--
Alex
650-400-3071
cannara@sbcglobal.net






Posted by Alfred, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 24, 2011 at 1:15 pm

> Binder told the Weekly that the capital costs for a local
> anaerobic-digestion plant could range between $25 million to
> about $100 million

Does anyone know if the financing costs of this capital was identified and added into the total costs? If not, then there is a $25M-$100M charge missing from the total cost estimate.


Posted by Stan, a resident of Community Center
on Feb 24, 2011 at 1:16 pm

Forget the arguments people are making and focus on what the consultant is coming up with - this project is totally unfeasible from any standpoint - financial, environmental, energy generating, etc.

And now you add that justifying it as an energy source is unworkable too!

That the feasibility study cost us $200,000. During tough economic times, this is a reasonable basis to question the project outright and oppose the study.


Posted by sandy, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 24, 2011 at 2:06 pm

The one thing this whole issue has made clear to me is this:

Let's not name anything after any individual until he or she is dead.


Posted by Lois, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 24, 2011 at 4:53 pm

I plan to vote against this plant, why, because Green Waste is presently planning to build a similar plant in San Mateo. The plant is in the very early stages of planning but Drekmeier & Co. somehow always manage to fail to tell any meeting about the possibility of competition and this duplicate facility. I found out about it from questions asked by Council.

If Green Waste goes ahead with their plans, they will be buying up all our surplus compostable material and we won't have to transport it to Gilroy.

The plant they are proposing may not have a sewage sludge component but this has not been finally decided. Anyhow, they will take our compostables. If, after exhaustive studies Green Waste decides not to build their plant, then you will know it is economically unfeasible.

Before you decide which side you are on and before you vote look at the whole picture not just what Drekmeier & Co. or Emily Renzel want you to hear.


Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 24, 2011 at 11:10 pm

Here is some interesting news that I found at this link:

Web Link

OSHKOSH (AP) - The University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh will use food scraps and yard waste to provide energy on campus.

A $3.5 million bio-digester is expected to be operational this year and will convert waste into biogas for electricity and heat. The system should generate up to 10 percent of the university's electricity.

The Journal Sentinel reports the bio-digester will use about 8,000 tons of organic waste per year, including garbage from the campus cafeterias. The university expects the system will pay for itself in about seven to 10 years through energy savings.


Posted by member, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Feb 25, 2011 at 6:18 am

Bet this plant isn't in a park on a bay.


Posted by Lee, a resident of Southgate
on Feb 25, 2011 at 8:38 am

The university composter mentioned above is apples and oranges. The complexities of doing this project in Palo Alto is vast and in many many ways, specific to this specific town and site. I had no idea (and still don't understand the specifics) for instance that we now and in the future MUST pay rent to the City for land used at the site on the bay. A lot of rent. And that this yearly amount must yet be factored in. A million or more a year apparently that we have to come up with. I can't explain why we pay rent but we do - I assume it has something to do with how various agencies such as utilities, etc. are separated, having to do with structural needs, taxes, revenue, etc.

And the financing would be very different here than some midwest university. The time frame mentioned so far is 20 years - also can't explain, but others can.

If all we needed to do is look at other examples, we could have save all that money we paid to an expert in the field to do the analysis.


Posted by svatoid, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Feb 25, 2011 at 9:31 am

In my post from yesterday, a portion was edited out in which I stated that Drekmeier does not understand what it is like to have to work on a daily basis to earn a living (as part of my claim that he has no clue about money and finances).
Below are a couple of links which describe Drekemier's occupation. Perhaps the editors can point out which positions are actually full time, daily jobs:

Web Link
Web Link

My point should not have been deleted since they are based on facts.


Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere, a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 26, 2011 at 4:35 am

Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a registered user.

There are several points in the article and comments which I can correct or clarify.

The best news is that, over a 20-year period, public-financing of the local Dry Anaerobic Digestion (AD) will actually save the city and its rate payers millions of dollars compared to sending our wastes "away". People (including myself) get hung-up on the year-one costs and fail to notice the year-twenty and total 20-year costs. A 30-year horizon will likely show even greater over-all savings for the local option. The study's Preliminary Cost Analysis Summary (Web Link) indicates the following:

YEAR-ONE YEAR-TWENTY 20-YEAR TOTAL PROJECT/FINANCING OPTION
$ 68/ton $118/ton $71 million Truck food & yard to Gilroy, Incinerate sewage
$112/ton $106/ton $91 million Dry AD: private financing/private operation
$ 81/ton $ 81/ton $67 million Dry AD: public financing/private operation
$ 62/ton $ 65/ton $52 million Dry AD: City receives 30% in grants worth $12M

This shows that, over a 20 year period, the public financing of local Dry Anaerobic Digestion is $4 million more affordable than sending our wastes away. With a 30% grant, we save the rate-payers $19 million, which comes out to about $1 million a year in savings through handling our wastes locally.

What's more, there are several factors which will drive up the costs of incineration/remote disposal which the draft study has not yet taken into account. These include long-term maintenance of the incinerator, increasing fuel costs for transportation, and unreliability of the cost estimate for GreenWaste's as yet unbuilt facility. While a 30% contingency has been applied to local dry AD, no contingency was added to the San Jose's Dry AD rough quote of $85/ton for food-waste.


The article auther wrote "So far, anaerobic digestion has been used primarily in Europe". In fact, Wet AD is currently used throughout the world, including in the United States and California. It is only Dry AD which is new to the U.S.

The vendors and consultants are hesitant to commit to a price estimate/feasibility of using Dry AD for sewage, but I think they are over-cautious: Wet AD is used extensively for sewage, and Dry AD uses similar principles, and at least one company is interested in doing a pilot project to test and study the best way to process our sewage in a Dry AD.

In case Dry AD really is somehow not compatible with sewage, we've also asked the city/consultant to examine doing Wet AD for biosolids and food, and composting the digestate with our yard waste. Digesting biosolids with food produces more net energy than doing each of those separately, and while the compost product may not be as valuable the difference in energy value will likely make up much more than the difference. Wet AD is a very well known technology, so this might turn out to be a better plan than using Dry AD.


"To make the Byxbee Park land available for a new waste-to-energy plant, city voters would need to "undedicate" the dedicated parkland site."
More specifically, only 10 out of 126 acres of former landfill would need to be undedicated, which is what the petition seeks. There are 1,940-acres of Palo Alto Baylands. If, like one College Terrace resident, you prefer your area estimates in American football fields instead of acres: the proposed 10-acre site covers 7.7 football fields, including ~5 football fields worth of building, out of 97 football fields worth of Byxbee Park on former landfill. It's really not that big when you look at in in context, it's less than half the sewage treatment plant.

@same College Terrace resident, who wrote "And I learned that NO digestion faciltiy in existence does anything with their digested waste other than dump it onto their old-fashioned landfill..."

Actually, the consultant was saying that Europeans typically don't bother composting the digestate from the dry AD facilities, but just landfill it. Many US digestion facilities make compost from their digestate. Others send it to a landfill. The sale value of compost is small compared to the energy value, so most places don't bother. Making use of the 10-acre site, Palo Alto could make both energy and compost, while saving money too.

While the waste-management techniques studied all cost something, they have different costs, and when you look at the total 20-year cost, public financing of local Dry AD saves the rate-payers between $4 million (w/out grants) and $19 million (with 30% grant).

The Preliminary Green House Gas analysis shows that the local Dry AD option reduces our emissions by between 13,000 and 15,000 Metric Tons of CO2-equivalents per year. So in addition to being a net money savings, we also significantly reduce our GHG emissions.


@svatoid's "Didn't we have some kind of Green ribbon Panel that was supposed to study this and come up with conclusions/recommendations? What happened with that?"

I was on that Council-appointed 9-member Blue Ribbon Composting Task Force, and served as one of two Co-Chairs for that group. The current process is a direct result of our unanimous recommendations, which were to pursue Dry Anaerobic Digestion for our yard, food, and sewage wastes at a location adjacent to the sewage-treatment plant. Council directed the Compost Task Force to consider the use of parkland as a last resort, so we recommended that an empty-field in the airport site be used (we were informed that the site could not be used by the airport, and that all previous attempts by the airport to use the site had been rejected). Understandably, the airport community freaked out and raised arguably legitimate concerns. After considering all this, the Council realized the landfill/parkland was the only other viable location in Palo Alto.

@svatoid's criticisms of Peter:
I advise against casting aspersions when one doesn't know the facts. I've known Peter for a dozen years, and throughout that time he has successfully supported himself through his hard work, dedication, and smarts. Just like the rest of us, he gets up everyday to go to work and make ends meet. But rather than contenting himself with just getting by or amassing vast personal wealth, he has successfully applied himself towards socially and ecologically beneficial service. We are lucky in Palo Alto to have people like Peter who care and act not just for themselves but for the rest of us and the planet as well.

@Alfred:
Yes, debt financing was included in the Dry AD project costs.

@Stan, who seems to think the AD-produced methane is not a workable energy source:
Actually, Dr. Cannara was referring to landfill gas being unsuitable to scrubbing/pumping any significant distance, not to the methane produced by digesters. In fact the draft study indicates that if the landfill gas were fed to the Dry AD's turbine, it would save the city/ratepayers an additional $1 million over 20 years.

@Lee who mentions the rent issue:
The land rent issue is a red herring brought up by opponents to this use of the landfill/byxbee park, to try to kill the project by asserting that the landfill land must be rented from the city at high rates. In truth, the initiative to make 10 acres next to the sewage-treatment plant allows for no other use of the land than for an organic waste-to-energy facility, and commercial use of the land would not be permitted. Any rent that could be charged would be at the City Council's discretion, and any rent money raised would go from ratepayers to the city. When this project can save the city and its residents millions of dollars w/in a 20-year window, it would be fiscally irresponsible for the Council to choose to force the project to pay such a high rent that the project became infeasible.

@Lois, who thinks Green Waste's Dry AD facility in SJ will save us:
GreenWaste's total facility capacity will be either 150,000 or 270,000 tons per year (tpy), and they will only take food-waste, of which Palo Alto generates 20,000 tons per year. Palo Alto is 3% of the county's population, but would take up 7% to 13% of the regional San Jose facilty's capacity, way more than our fair share. It is not even certain that the SJ facility would have room left for our food-waste, once they take up San Jose's food. The yard waste would still go 53 miles to southern Gilroy, and sewage would still be incinerated in Palo Alto. If we could send them all three of our organic waste streams, at 62,000 tpy we'd use up 23% to 43% of the plant's capacity.

The only regionally, locally, and fiscally responsible way to go is to to reduce our waste and generate local renewable energy from the rest.

Sorry for the long post, but it's a complicated issue, and simple sound bytes just don't serve us well...


Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere, a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 26, 2011 at 4:55 am

Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a registered user.

Ugh, my table's formatting was destroyed. Hopefully this will come out better:

The study's Preliminary Cost Analysis Summary indicates (Web Link):

YEAR-1 ...| YEAR-20 ...| 20-YEAR TOTAL | PROJECT/FINANCING OPTION
$ 68/ton ...| $118/ton ...| $71 million ..........| Truck food & yard to Gilroy, Incinerate sewage
$112/ton ..| $106/ton ...| $91 million ..........| Dry AD: private financing/private operation
$ 81/ton ...| $ 81/ton ....| $67 million ..........| Dry AD: public financing/private operation
$ 62/ton ...| $ 65/ton ....| $52 million ..........| Dry AD: City receives 30% in grants worth $12M

This shows that, over a 20 year period, the public financing of local Dry Anaerobic Digestion is $4 million more affordable than sending our wastes away. With a 30% grant, we save the rate-payers $19 million, which comes out to about $1 million a year in savings through handling our wastes locally.


Posted by svatoid, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Feb 26, 2011 at 9:36 am

"@svatoid's criticisms of Peter:

I advise against casting aspersions when one doesn't know the facts. I've known Peter for a dozen years, and throughout that time he has successfully supported himself through his hard work, dedication, and smarts. Just like the rest of us, he gets up everyday to go to work and make ends meet. But rather than contenting himself with just getting by or amassing vast personal wealth, he has successfully applied himself towards socially and ecologically beneficial service. We are lucky in Palo Alto to have people like Peter who care and act not just for themselves but for the rest of us and the planet as well."

Thanks, Cedric, for you comments. I will stand by my criticism of Peter based on seeing him in "Action" on the council and perusing the internet for information. I will stand by my comments that he is a lightweight, who has no concept of finance or how the real world works (probably due to his filtering everything through his green funnel). Also remember that he is a politician and a public figure, so he has placed himself in a position to be criticized for his public actions.


Posted by Bryan Long, a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 26, 2011 at 10:56 am

Thanks to Cedric for that post! Doesn't leave me with much to add other than to emphasize that the initiative is about allowing the POSSIBILITY of building an environmentally sound organic waste facility, adjacent to or as an extension of the wastewater treatment plant. It doesn't mandate a specific technology or even the building of anything. Many years back we passed a local ordinance that requires voter approval before the City could use any park land, or any land designated as future park. By voting to undedicate 10% of the landfill acreage next to the water treatment plant, we give the City the flexibility to consider how to best satisfy both economic and environmental needs. As Cedric points out, the PRELIMINARY feasibility study suggests that a dry anaerobic digestion facility could save us money over a 20 year period. However it also points out uncertainties with this technology. We will wait and see what the final feasibility study comes up with. There are, however, numerous other possibilities that would allow Palo Alto to move away from the current practice of incinerating our sewage sludge, which is both expensive and environmentally undesirable. Some of these possibilities may not be possible without at least a minor expansion of the land currently dedicated to the regional wastewater treatment plant. The ballot initiative gives us the flexibility to find the best solution to both budget and environmental concerns. It does so by undedicating a small amount of the current landfill land next to the wastewater plant. The initiative is being promoted not by one person but by a broad and diverse group of people, and has gotten very enthusiastic support by many Palo Alto residents as shown by the thousands of signatures in support of the initiative. The initiative will be on the ballot, and it will be up to Palo Alto voters to decide whether the City can use 10 acres of the landfill site, if fiscally and environmentally responsible. The initiative isn't a communist plot or a subterfuge by environmental extremists, it's just a practical proposal by pragmatic citizens who understand that we have to balance fiscal and environmental concerns. Our elected City Council will still have to decide whether it makes sense to actually use the land we make available.


Posted by New Range Power Corp, a resident of another community
on Mar 3, 2011 at 7:24 pm

We would be pleased to build a biosolids disposal and energy project for the city. We will design, fabricate, erect and operate the facility with our company funds. What we ask is that the biosolids and certain other solid "waste" be delivered free of cost and that the city purchase the electricity we produce at a fair rate.

New Range Power Corp
www.newrangepower.com


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