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New study, same arguments in Palo Alto's compost debate

Original post made on Jun 28, 2011

Palo Alto's heated debate over the future of local composting reignited Monday night, with both supporters and opponents of a new facility pointing to a newly released analysis to support their position.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, June 27, 2011, 9:56 PM

Comments (30)

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Posted by concerned citizen
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 28, 2011 at 12:06 pm

If it will take undedicating parkland and not paying the city rent to save about $30 million over 20 years with the new facility, then that is what we should do. The savings would only increase over time, once the plant is fully financed, and shipping our waste into other towns will be avoided.

In these challenging economic times, Palo Alto should make every decision with the highest degree of fiscal responsibility.


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Posted by svatoid
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 28, 2011 at 12:16 pm

Some key points from the article:

" it does not answer the central question of whether it would be cheaper to build a new waste-to-energy plant in Byxbee Park or to ship waste elsewhere."

and

"The draft report suggests that a waste-to-energy facility could be economically feasible in Palo Alto, but only if a series of uncertain assumptions prove true."

Those two comments from the report plus the reputation of the person fronting this proposed folly leave no choice in my mind butto vote against this when it comes to the ballot in November.

I look forward to seeing Craig Laughton debating Drekmeier on this issue


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Posted by Joel
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 28, 2011 at 12:55 pm

Joel is a registered user.

There should NOT be industrial facilities next to the bay. The cost of putting the issue of transitioning the landfill to a compost facility on the ballot not to mention the staff and consultant fees is already exorbitant in a time of severe budget cuts. A anaerobic compost facility should be built by a small group of regional communities to alleviate the cost to just one city. There seems to be a vindictive flavor to the environmental divisions in this issue rather than both sides looking for a win win. Hopefully, our City Council will find a middle ground rather than taking sides.


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Posted by svatoid
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 28, 2011 at 1:07 pm

"The cost of putting the issue of transitioning the landfill to a compost facility on the ballot not to mention the staff and consultant fees is already exorbitant in a time of severe budget cuts."

Well said. However when you have people pushing this issue that never have had to work at a steady job or feel that local institutions should provide unlimited money to pay for our city's fiscal irresponsibility, then is anyone surprised that this will cost us a few hundred thousand dollars


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Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 28, 2011 at 2:07 pm

"In these challenging economic times, Palo Alto should make every decision with the highest degree of fiscal responsibility."

Hear, hear. Subsidizing a needless facility for the flimsy excuse that we don't want to ship our waste to other towns (now there's elitism for you) is the highest degree of fiscal irresponsibility.


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Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 28, 2011 at 2:50 pm

Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a registered user.

Actually, Curmudgeon, shipping our food and yard wastes will cost $30M to $35M in the first 20 years, with neither carbon adders nor contingencies on that cost.

We've recommended, and staff agrees, that should the acreage be made available by the voters this November, Staff should study the option of doing Wet AD for the sewage, and composting the digestate, food, and yard waste locally on the former landfill site. This may save us a lot of money to handle it locally instead of shipping it away.


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Posted by svatoid
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 28, 2011 at 3:00 pm

Cedric--

Tharticle clearly states:

"" it does not answer the central question of whether it would be cheaper to build a new waste-to-energy plant in Byxbee Park or to ship waste elsewhere."

and

"The draft report suggests that a waste-to-energy facility could be economically feasible in Palo Alto, but only if a series of uncertain assumptions prove true."

So why do you give us those numbers regarding shipping our food and yard waste? Why do you say that this will save us lots of money when the article clearly quotes the report as saying that that has not been determined yet.

Seems to me that the supporters of this folly are already in spreading potentially false information mode, in their quest to shove this down our throats.


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Posted by David
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 28, 2011 at 3:41 pm

There is already an industrial facility right next to the park so there is actually no better place to put an AD facility then next to the existing one. That is what the Blue Ribbon Task Force already found out. The wastewater treatment plant is not going away so making it cost less to take care of our waste while making electricity and compost is a good idea and I think a good trade. The money this will save will offset any cost for the study and the election. Now if there were a lobbing effort to put a large hotel or car dealership on Bixbee Park I think we would all be hand-in-hand to defeat this. Times have changes and so have our environmental problems. I think this is a good trade.


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Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 28, 2011 at 4:28 pm

Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a registered user.

Svatoid, I am one of a probably mere handful of people who has actually looked at and studied the report spreadsheets in detail. I have pulled this information directly out of the report and can tell you where to find it. It will be a bit more difficult for you and others to replicate this, because the city's website only has PDFs of the spreadsheets, not the actual excel files themselves, but these will be eventually posted to the website. People involved on both sides of the issue received advanced copies so we could analyze them and prepare for last night's council meeting.

To find the information,
1) go to the project page (Web Link),
2) grab the document called "Cost Data/Scenario 3/Simple DAD" (Web Link) (I'll note in passing that Scenario 3 is the one that is most favorable to the opponents to this project, which is why i pulled this number from there, so people can't complain of CO2 adders, etc.).
3) Go the the last page (24 of 24) of that spreadsheet.
4) There you will see groups titled "Alternative 2a" and "Alternative 3a", and under each rows labelled "Food Scraps Cost ($)" and "Yard Trimmings Cost ($)". These are the cost each year for exporting the food and yard, over the 20 years of the study.
5) Do not simply add all these up, because you will get a number that is too high, because they include inflation. Instead, for each of these lines, you need to copy the annual costs to a spreadsheet program (such as Excel), and on the next line enter the following formula:
=NPV(5%,C145:V145)
Where 5% is the value of tab 'Inputs' cell F22 (page 5 of that same PDF, the line item 13 called "Discount Rate for NPV Analysis (Public Tax-Exempt Cost of Capital)"
And where cells C145 to V145 contain the food prices.
Do the same for yard prices (Where cells C146 to V146 contain the yard prices):
=NPV(5%,C146:V146)
6) This should give you:
$25M (for case 2a food scraps sent to SJ Dry AD)
$20M (for case 3a food scraps sent to Gilroy composting)
$10M (for 2a & 3a yard trimmings sent to Gilroy composting)
7) Sum these together and you get $35M for 2a, $35M for 3a, for disposing of food and yard wastes over 20 years, in 2015 dollars.
...
No propaganda, no lies, straight from the report.


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Posted by Svatoid
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 28, 2011 at 5:23 pm

Fine, cedric, however you still do not answer the more important question of the statements in the article that say that the central question of will it be cheaper has not been answered. So bottom line your numbers are meaningless. I think most of us are smart enough to disregard the propaganda being thrown at us by the supporters of this expensive folly.


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Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 29, 2011 at 12:09 am

Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a registered user.

Svatoid,

I think we can all agree that sewage incineration is out: it will be is outrageously expensive to rebuild it, and emits a lot of green house gas. Both opponents and proponents of the initiative agree on this.

For the sewage, of the options evaluated in the study, that leaves either Dry or Wet Anaerobic Digestion (AD). (These correspond to cases 1a for Dry AD, and 1b, 1c, 2a & 3a for Wet AD.)

For the yard and food wastes, the study considered processing them in Dry AD (Case 1a), or sending yard to southern Gilroy for Composting (2a & 3a), and/or sending food to a Dry AD in San Jose (2a).

For reasons of cost competitiveness, I have focused on options 1a, 2a & 3a. The opponents to this initiative like 2a or 3a, because these would handle the sewage at the water treatment plant, keep this 8% of the landfill/park intact, and send the rest of our wastes "away".

The study considered three scenarios which affect costs, which are summarized on page 1 of Web Link

Under these Scenarios (Sc 1, 2, 3), these cases were estimated to have the following total 20-year costs:

20-year NPV (Millions $):
Case..... Sc 1..... Sc 2..... Sc 3 .... Description
1a............ 60........ 73......... 96 ...... local Dry AD for all our organics
2a............ 94........ 96......... 81 ...... Wet AD for sewage, Food sent to San Jose Dry AD, Yard sent to Gilroy for Composting
3a............ 89........ 91......... 77 ...... Wet AD for sewage, Food and Yard sent to Gilroy for Composting

In Scenario 1, Cases 2a, 3a cost 50% more than Case 1a.
In Scenario 2, Cases 2a, 3a cost 28% more than Case 1a.
In Scenario 3, Cases 2a, 3a cost 18% less than Case 1a.

Note that Scenario 3 has $908,000/year in rent for the Case 1a Dry AD on the landfill/Byxbee park site, inflating its cost by $11M over 20 years. It's not $18M because inflation means that the fixed-cost of rent deflates over time ($1 is worth more today than in 20 years), so when you add up all the future costs and bring them to their Net Present Value (NPV), it comes to $11M in today's dollars... Scenario 3 Case 1a would be $85M without rent.

I asked myself, why is it that cases 2a and 3a cost so much more than 1a, given that they're all doing forms of AD, and so I calculated how much of their costs come from exporting the food and yard wastes. I obtained the following results:

20-year NPV (Millions $) of exporting food and yard wastes (and percentage of total cost):
Case...... Scenario 1..... Scenario 2...... Scenario 3
2a............ 44 (47%)........ 44 (46%)......... 35 (43%)
3a............ 39 (44%)........ 39 (43%)......... 30 (39%)

Sending our wastes "away" will cost us tens of millions of dollars. While processing them locally will also have costs, the affordability of Case 1a hints that keeping our compost local may be more affordable, plus it retains a local source of compost, and a place where residents could dump their green waste after a big yard cleanup. This is why, if the citizens vote to make the land available, I encourage the City and Staff to study a combination of Wet AD for sewage at the existing treatment plant, and composting the digestate from the AD and other organics at the landfill site.


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Posted by svatoid
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 29, 2011 at 6:21 am

Cedric says: "Sending our wastes "away" will cost us tens of millions of dollars."

While the article states:
"But while the 37-page report weighs a wide range of factors, including different financing methods, contingency fees and carbon adders, it does not answer the central question of whether it would be cheaper to build a new waste-to-energy plant in Byxbee Park or to ship waste elsewhere."

So what Cedric says does not agree with what the report says. So is Cedric saying that the report is flawed?
Throwing out all these numbers at us is meaningless, given the analysis presented by the consulting firm. Seems to me that the supporters of this folly are in full spin mode already, attempting to dazzle us with numbers and spreadsheets.


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Posted by Joe
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 29, 2011 at 9:36 am

Well, svatoid, looks like you lose this round. You asked for numbers and Cedric told you how to get them. You said you didn't understand how Cedric made his conclusion and Cedric showed you. Now you say the numbers are meaningless. Fine, we know how much you hate Peter Drekmeier, but your criticism of the plan seems pretty petty so far.


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Posted by svatoid
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 29, 2011 at 9:51 am

No, Joe, Cedric loses this round.
You claim that I asked Cedric for numbers. On the contrary what i wrote was:
"So why do you give us those numbers regarding shipping our food and yard waste? Why do you say that this will save us lots of money when the article clearly quotes the report as saying that that has not been determined yet."

I did not ask for numbers. The number he provides are irrelevant. The key point is that the consultants have clearly stated that it is not clear whether it would be cheaper to build a new waste-to-energy plant in Byxbee Park or to ship waste elsewhere and they also state that waste-to-energy facility could be economically feasible in Palo Alto, but only if a series of uncertain assumptions prove true.

the fact that he is providing numbers and then claiming that sending our waste away will cost us money, while ignoring the consultants report. What Cedric is showing me is numbers from a report. I never asked for those numbers, I never stated that I did not understand his conclusions. I just want him to explain how his claims ("This may save us a lot of money to handle it locally instead of shipping it away.") are different from that of the report.

As for Drekmeier, I make no secret of the fact that I dislike him. I do not trust him when it comes to financial issues and I do not like the fact that everything is filtered through his green glasses. And since he is the front man for this issue, I plan to vote against it. I think it is a bad financial decision.






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Posted by RadioGuy
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 29, 2011 at 10:32 am

RadioGuy is a registered user.

No, svatoid, Joe's right - sorry, you lost this argument. Nobody can predict the future accurately and any financial model will have uncertainty. That's the nature of a consultant's report.

I can make the same reasoned argument about the consultant's report on the plan for the City to take over the Palo Alto Airport. The usage projections are too optimistic - flight operations are already down approximately 15% this year. The budget cutters in Washington could impose a "usage fees" on private pilots, shifting the costs from the Federal government and further depressing the number of flight operations. The cost of aviation fuel could skyrocket, especially if lead is finally removed, making flying a private plane more expensive. Nobody knows the cost of replacing the levy protecting the airport, but at some point it's going to need extensive repair or replacement. They're all good arguments, and people can agree or disagree with their likelihood.

Unfortunately, you make no such arguments. You're simply parsing words out of context. Your position precludes any rational discussion.


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Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 29, 2011 at 10:34 am

Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a registered user.

The article did not mention that Staff believes Scenario 2 to be the most realistic. Under Scenario 2, compared to the export options (2a & 3a) of sending or yard and food wastes "away", local Dry AD (Case 1a), which handles all of our organic wastes locally, is estimated to save the city $20M over 20 years. That's directly from the report, and I've shown above, again straight from the report and not "ignoring it" as Svatoid claims, that shipping our wastes away costs us, at a minimum $30M over 20 years.

Scenario 2 has the following 5 assumptions (with my explanations of why they are realistic):

1. Private ownership and financing at market rate. ____ (Dry AD is a new enough technology for the US, and in particularly for treating sewage, that it is prudent to have a private entity take on the risk of ownership, with the city paying a bit more for that freedom from risk.)

2. 15% grant on construction costs assumed. _______ (There is a lot of support Federally and in CA for alternative energy generation, and the city always seeks grants (and often gets them) for large capital projects.)

3. $108,000/year site rent cost included. ___________ ($108K/yr is the average regional valuation of a site that, were it not used for this project, could only be used for park. The opponents want to charge rent as if an office building could go there, but the initiative does not permit such a use.)

4. Costs for C02 "carbon adder" included. __________ (It is City policy and long-standing Utilities practice to apply a $20/ton carbon adder to evaluate energy projects and give weight to the city values of climate protection. These costs are only for evaluation, giving "green" projects a slight edge over "brown" projects, but once a project is chosen, no money is actually paid for carbon [though a smart project may in the future enable the sale of carbon credits].)

5. 15% contingency added to cost of export options. __ (It is also standard policy to apply some contingency to projects, in case things cost more than expected, or prices rise in the future. The case 1a (local Dry AD) already has a 30% contingency. It is only reasonable to assume that fuel prices will rise in the next 20 years, so the cost of transporting wastes will increase, while the value of generated energy for AD would also increase.)

These are some of the reasons that Staff recommended and focused on Scenario 2.

A few months ago, after the report 's initial draft and before this final draft, we recommended that the study should investigate the combination of Wet AD for sewage, possibly combined with food waste (which increases the energy produced more than doing them separately), composting the digestate from the AD with yard waste, and separately composting with yard waste any food that was not added to the digesters. Staff agreed that this could be a viable and cost-effective strategy, but did not feel they had sufficient time to study this option by this past Monday's due-date of the report draft.

Staff has indicated that they intend to study this option if the land becomes available, as part of their on-going long-range plan for the waste water treatment facility. Given the numbers I summarized in my previous post, there is good reason to believe that this could save the city millions of dollars over sending the food and yard wastes away.

This is one reason why Phil Bobel, the city's environmental compliance manager, wrote in a staff report, "The Alternatives studied to date are close enough in costs that it does not appear warranted to eliminate any of them from further consideration at this time."

Staff recommended that, should the initiative pass to make the land available, the City get firmer RFPs to get even more accurate costs for some focused alternatives.

But this option which could save us millions is only possible if 10 acres (less than 8%) of the 126 acre former landfill/future Byxbee park is made available for this purpose in November's election. This piece of land is immediately adjacent to the existing waste water treatment plant, and it is the only place in the city which is available and suitable for this purpose. A vote of the people is required to make it available.


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Posted by svatoid
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 29, 2011 at 10:43 am

Radio Guy:
"Nobody can predict the future accurately and any financial model will have uncertainty. That's the nature of a consultant's report."
So why bother bringing in a consultant to do a report? Obviously no one can accurately predict the future, but the city wanted some guidance on this matter. The report makes some clear statements, which I have mentioned previously.

"You're simply parsing words out of context."
No, I am taking compete sentences from the report and asking Cedric how his claims go along with the consultants report.
As I stated to Joe (despite his claims)--I never asked for numbers, nor did I claim to not understand the numbers. The numbers that Cedric has provided are a smokescreen. I guess we will have to wait until their is a debate on this issue for the supporters to explain their claims

"Your position precludes any rational discussion."
Will this be the argument that the supporters of this plan against those that oppose it?

Sorry, Radio Guy, but you are wrong.


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Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 29, 2011 at 12:59 pm

Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a registered user.

Svatoid,

1) From the report: at a minimum, exporting yard and food wastes will cost $30M over 20 years.
2) From the report: in most realistic Scenario 2, local handling of all organics saves city $20M over 20 years.
3) Staff says that, under all scenarios, the costs between Wet and Dry AD (cases 1a, 1c, 2a, 3a) are close enough to each other that further examination is warranted. And that a different type of non-binding RFP should yield firmer numbers.
4) Staff recommends that if others don't do it first, eventually City would want to do a pilot study of sewage processed by Dry AD. Some Dry AD vendors have indicated an interest in doing such a study, and have even applied for grants to do so. If it is shown to be effective, hands down it is the cheapest option.
5) If not, Staff has said that local Wet AD with local handling of food and yard should be examined as a feasible and economical solution.

Financial conservatism warrants examining the most affordable solutions, and voting to make the land available that such solutions are likely to require.


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Posted by Ed Afic
a resident of another community
on Jun 29, 2011 at 1:07 pm

I'm interested in local carbon cycles. How much of the product from the composting facility would be returned to the soil in Palo Alto and environs? What would be the cost (and carbon footprint) of importing comparable amounts of organic matter from other places. (Or the cost of having carbon-depleted soil.)

These effects are not in the report, as far as I know, because they are not part of the operating cost of disposal. However, they are costs borne by Palo Alto residents and should be part of the discussion.


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Posted by svatoid
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 29, 2011 at 1:13 pm

Cedric---
The article in the Weekly regarding the consultant's report states (and I repeat again):

"But while the 37-page report weighs a wide range of factors, including different financing methods, contingency fees and carbon adders, it does not answer the central question of whether it would be cheaper to build a new waste-to-energy plant in Byxbee Park or to ship waste elsewhere."

"The draft report suggests that a waste-to-energy facility could be economically feasible in Palo Alto, but only if a series of uncertain assumptions prove true. The report found that the building a local plant would be cheaper than exporting if the plant is publicly owned, if the project receives a lucrative bank loan and a grant covering 15 percent of construction costs, and if a "carbon adder" is considered in the calculations. This scenario would also assume that the city wouldn't charge rent for the Baylands site -- an assumption that critics of the proposed facility say should be reconsidered."

So I Fail to see despite your presentation of numbers etc how you are making the claims that you are making given the comments above.

Rather than voting on the park issue and wasting much needed money for this ballot measure--a decision should be made on what technology to use and then two ballot measures should be presented to the public AT THE SAME TIME--one for undedicating the park and one for the technology.


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Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 29, 2011 at 1:41 pm

Central to the anaerobic digestion (AD) proponents' argument is that sewage sludge will become a substantial portion of the compost mix. There is substantial and growing resistance resistance to the idea that sewage sludge should be part of the compost, period. (see: Web Link

sanitation-district-garners-awards-and-fierce-criticism/ ). Kern county and San Francisco, for example, are pushing back againt human sewage sludge as compost, becasue of conderns about about toxics accumulation. It may or may not be a rational concern, but it certainly is an economic concern, when considering the marketing of the end product.

This entire AD solution has been sold as a way to eliminate incineration of sewage sludge, by including sludge in the compost. If one eliminates sewage sludge from the digestate, how would this affect the numbers?

Plasma arc solves almost all the issues (it is not incineration, it destroys/captures all toxics, it is recycling into electrcity production, it is clean, it is far superior as a volume reduction of trash and it requires a much smaller industrial footprint.


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Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 8, 2011 at 7:25 am

Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a registered user.

Svatoid is too dependent upon a third-party reporting of a simplified summary of the study, whereas I am reporting directly what is in the study. The only scenario in which the export options are less expensive than local handling of our organics is when unrealistic assumptions are made (such as nearly $1M in annual rent, no contingency for higher prices than expected, etc).

City Staff's take on the AD options was that they are close enough in price that none can be ruled out at the moment, and firmer quotes are needed. Svatoid contends that we should therefore scrap the initiative, have the city figure out an option, then come back and have two ballot measures to both make the land available and select a project. This is not an option as the initiative has already qualified for the ballot. In addition, by placing the measure on the ballot through gathered signatures, we saved the city the cost of an additional, program-level EIR which the city would have been required to do before placing it on the ballot, and without knowing if the electorate would even agree to make the land available.

The November election will just be about making the space next to the sewage treatment plant available only for the purpose of converting our organic wastes into energy and or compost. Once the city knows the people support this use of the land, they can proceed to select the best solution.


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Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 8, 2011 at 7:54 am

Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a registered user.

To Craig's comments: Concerns of contaminants in sewage is a valid concern, but in contrast to jurisdictions like San Francisco, Palo Alto does not have heavy metals from industries in its sewage, and Kern County probably has contamination by agricultural pesticides, etc. Palo Alto's concerns would center more around pharmaceuticals which pass through people's bodies, and whether or not the AD and Compost processes would completely break these down. Beyond these concerns, despite humanure's beneficial fertilizations qualities, as Craig points out, people are hesitant to purchase compost derived from human wastes. As a result, the study actually assigned $0 as the value of such compost (and $30/ton for compost from yard/food only). The real value from poop is in the energy it generates, not from the compost sales.

Craig is a fan of Plasma Arc (Web Link) as a technology for organics disposal and energy generation. And indeed it has a small footprint. It is supposedly very good especially for handling trash and loves tires and plastics. But sewage and food wastes have high water content, and so require a lot more energy input to get energy out. If he has a solution for that, I imagine the city would like to hear it.


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Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 8, 2011 at 2:57 pm

"The November election will just be about making the space next to the sewage treatment plant available only for the purpose of converting our organic wastes into energy and or compost. Once the city knows the people support this use of the land, they can proceed to select the best solution."

Cedric says this, but his own initiative suggests something else:

"SECTION 5. Removal from Parkland.
The Property shall be removed from dedication as parkland, for the exclusive purpose of building a facility ("Facility" herein) for converting yard trimmings, food waste, other municipal organics and/or sewage sludge from the regional wastewater treatment plant by biological and/or other environmentally equally protective technology"

Clearly, this initiative is written to favor anaerobic digestion (AD), NOT the BEST solution to our waste problems. For example, "organics" will be argued to be naturally formed organic molecules, not man-made ones; "and/or sewage sludge" is the language provided to pivot away from sewage sludge in a single process. Sewage sludge (euphamistically renamed "biosolids")will not be accepted by the organic farmer/gardener community, because it is perceived to be toxic...in fact, the ash from the current incineration of our sewage sludge is required to be buried in a toxic waste dump (at high cost, and environmental degradation). The proponents of AD need to explain, exactly, what will be done with our sewage sludge...thus far, they have not. If the toxic sewage sludge is not part of the solution (i.e. compost), then the disposal costs MUST be explained.

As to the statement (regarding plasma arc): "But sewage and food wastes have high water content, and so require a lot more energy input to get energy out. If he has a solution for that, I imagine the city would like to hear it.", it is very simple: Supplement the input waste with high heat value materials, like used tires (which are a major enviornmental problem, and should be seen as a major enviromental and financial resource). Plasma arc could be paid by the tire shops to take the tires off their hands, thus making a profit for plasma arc, and providing the supplemtal energy source to overcome the relatively high water content of some input materials.

The major issue I have with AD is that it is a highly inefficient process, requiring a very big industrial footprint, and it does not really solve our waste problems in Palo Alto, in an environmentally sensitive way.

From Cedric's most recent post, I detect that his group is backing away from its previous criticisms of plasma arc, including claims that it is incineration, and that it is dangerous to human beings living next to the plasma arc plant. This is progress.






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Posted by Fred Balin
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 9, 2011 at 12:06 pm

Craig is onto something important in his reading of Section 5 of the Initiative, but it goes well beyond his view that it slants toward anaerobic digestion.

The voters right to decide whether dedicated parkland remains dedicated or not, does not extend to how the property can be used if it were to become un-dedicated.

There can be no linkage or conditionality between un-dedicating parkland ("The Property shall be removed from dedication as parkland, ") and a future use on that land (" for the exclusive purpose of building a facility for converting yard trimmings, food waste, other municipal organics and/or sewage sludge ").

Only the city council can decide how un-dedicated parkland will be used.

[See Tom Jordan's 6/27/11 letter to the City Attorney on pages 22-23 within Web Link ]

Nor does the un-dedication genie return easily into the bottle. There is no "Reversion," the heading of Section 7, in which matters automatically go back to a previous state after a specified period of time. Nor can voters re-dedicate the land via a future initiative.

Only the city council can dedicate parkland.

Were the initiative to pass, this or any future council could in theory re-dedicate some or all of the parkland at any time (not just after 10 years as stated in Section 7), but as I will argue later in another thread, that is highly unlikely.

In summary:
Dedicated parkland can only be un-dedicated by the voters.
An initiative to un-dedicate parkland cannot tie the land to any future use.
Lands owned or controlled by the city can only be dedicated as parkland by the city council.

Voters should be clear on this.


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Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 9, 2011 at 2:07 pm

Fred,

Thank you for your clarification of the land use issues/decisions.

Our city council needs to weigh in and demonstrate some real leadership. IF the land is undedicated, will they look at BEST USES...or will they go, lockstep, towards a large anaerobic digestion industrial plant?

Thus far, the zero waste zealots have controlled the city council agenda. It reminds me of the time, a couple of years ago, when our council voted, unanimously, to support high speed rail. They didn't bother to do their homework (Berlin Wall anyone?), because they were locked into the ideology of "green".

It is now time for our council to look at the BEST solutions for our wastes. I prefer plasma arc, but there may be other approaches. The thing I am sure of is that anaerobic digestion is NOT the best solution.


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Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 14, 2011 at 5:42 pm

Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a registered user.

I should clarify that what I have written here is my own opinion only, and not an official position of the Palo Alto Green Energy Initiative. I am in France with family at the moment and not consulting with others when I write here. I think that some within PAGEI consider Plasma Arc to be incineration, but I don't think PAGEI has an official position on this question.

Plasm Arc does not directly does not burn wastes but feeds extremely hot inert gas into a chamber containing waste, breaking down materials into its elements and releasing syngas which is used for energy production. How this compares to incineration I can't say at this moment.

The initiative only calls for using the land for processing of food, yard and/or sewage wastes. Had we included trash processing, we would have fewer supporters. The city could chose to pursue technologies such as Plasma Arc which handle Municipal Solid Waste (MSW aka trash) handling. But when the Compost Task Force considered Plasma Arc and certain other techniques, they were still new (and still are), and we opted for more well-understood and developed technologies, such as Anaerobic Digestion.


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Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 14, 2011 at 7:03 pm

"I don't think PAGEI has an official position on this question."

Cedric, oh yes they do!

Web Link

The offcial position is that plasma arc is incineration, and that it is dangerous to humans, neither of which is true.

Cedric, you appear to be a sincere man, and I welcome you to do a little digging into the facts about both plasma arc and anaerobic digestion. I think you will find that plasma arc solves the majority of our local waste problems, while anaerobic digestion does not...and plasma arc can do it with a much smaller industrial footprint in our Baylands...we don't need 10 acres out there, we can probably solve our problems with about half that much.

As the election approaches, I will put forth my best arguments against anaerobic digestion in our Baylands. In the meantime, I shall continue to make the argument for a comprehensive solution (plasma arc).

Please enjoy your time in France, sincerely!

Regards,

Craig


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Posted by jacko
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 15, 2011 at 11:18 am

Even if you think this is "parkland" that belongs to teh people of the city, then I can think that this is the best possible use for this "parkland". We are nurturing clean-tech here. We are an educated stronghold in an uneducated country. We should be leaders and show teh way. Australia has just passed a carbon tax. China is subsidising solar. And even one of the most educated communities in the US, where we have a very small percentage of climate change deniers, are confused about the ESSENTIAL IMPERATIVE OF CLIMATE CHANGE MITIGATION.

It should go ahead. It is the best possible use of this space.


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Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 15, 2011 at 11:35 am

jacko,

Exactly what climate change mitigation are you referring to? Anaerobic digestion (AD) results, finally, in the release of all fixed carbons as CO2 (or methane). If you are talking about eliminating the natural gas (methane) for the incinerator, there are better solutions to that issue.

Have you considered the problem of what happens to the end product of AD? This digestate/compost is considered toxic by many organic farmers, and they won't take it, even if it is free. It will need to hauled away to another site, thus using fossil fuels (and $$).

Please explain, jacko....


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