Guest Opinion: Vote yes on Measure E

Why not process waste here, produce energy and reduce greenhouse gases?

by Peter Drekmeier

More than 100 years ago, Palo Altans debated whether or not to establish a municipal utilities district. Fortunately, for every generation since, the pro side won, bringing huge benefits to our community. Our energy has been greener and cheaper than in neighboring communities, and our utilities have generated more than $400 million for Palo Alto's infrastructure and city services.

Today we face a similar decision. Should we repurpose eight percent of our retired dump for a state-of-the-art renewable energy and composting facility? Such a facility would produce enough biogas (green energy) to power 1,400 homes, reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 20,000 tons per year compared to current practices, and save ratepayers millions of dollars.

Measure E provides an option to pursue this sustainable path. It will repurpose up to 10 acres of heavily-impacted land directly adjacent to the sewage treatment plant "for the exclusive purpose of building a facility 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."

A photo of the site is available at

Measure E poses zero risk. It does not determine any specific technology, and it does not require that a project be built. If the City Council determines a new facility is not cost-effective, they may rededicate the land as park after 10 years, or sooner with a public vote.

The real risk is losing this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

To assess the benefits of a waste-to-energy facility, City Council commissioned an exhaustive feasibility study. It found that anaerobic digestion, a process using microorganisms in enclosed containers to break down organic waste into biogas (renewable energy) and compost, would not only be good for the environment, but also for the city's finances. Under the financial scenario deemed most realistic by staff, anaerobic digestion would likely save at least $18 million over the first 20 years when compared to any other alternative for processing our organic waste.

After the facility is paid off, our savings will become even greater, while the alternatives would become more expensive. The projected Year-20 cost for anaerobic digestion is $53 per ton, vs. $123 per ton for the export alternative favored by opponents of Measure E.

The Feasibility Study is available for all to review at

So, what is the alternative if Measure E fails? We will continue to truck our food and yard waste to Gilroy and San Jose, requiring 450,000 vehicle miles per year at an annual cost of $2 million, and generating thousands of tons of greenhouse gases.

Defeat of Measure E poses a huge risk. It would put us at the mercy of rising fuel costs and a vendor who could charge whatever the market will bear for limited waste-processing capacity in a world of increasing demand.

Opponents of Measure E argue we should use wet anaerobic digestion to process our sewage sludge alone, and continue to truck our food and yard waste to Gilroy and San Jose. This would be a huge mistake. By scaling up such a wet digester, we could process our food waste along with our sludge, a tried-and-true technology being used in thousands of communities, including several in the Bay Area. The digestate (leftover material) could then be composted with our yard waste to handle all three organic waste streams locally. Staff has indicated this would be a likely scenario if Measure E passes.

Food waste contains three times the energy of sewage sludge, so by exporting it, we would be paying someone else to turn our resource into their energy. Let's keep that valuable renewable energy right here in Palo Alto.

In 1965, when it was determined the entire dump would be converted to parkland upon closure, the world was a very different place. Lyndon Johnson was president, the Vietnam War was heating up, the world's population was half what it is today, and climate change was an unknown problem. Times have changed, and so should our priorities.

It's time to focus less on the past and more on the future. Measure E will help bring huge environmental and financial benefits to Palo Alto. Let's keep this option alive. Vote YES on Measure E!

For a list of Measure E endorsers, please visit

Related story: Media Center posts Palo Alto election videos

Peter Drekmeier has worked on local, regional and international environmental issues for the past 25 years. He was elected to the Palo Alto City Council in 2005 and served as mayor in 2009.

What is community worth to you?
Support local journalism.


Like this comment
Posted by James Hoosac
a resident of another community
on Oct 10, 2011 at 6:30 pm

Biogas is unproven. It is unwise for the city to take such large liabilities. Let's not toy with precious tax dollars.

If you really want to generate electricity, 10-acre solar panels can generate far more electricity than biogas.

Like this comment
Posted by No on E
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 10, 2011 at 6:41 pm

I'm voting "NO" on measure E because I don't want to pay for a wet anarobic digester to be built and I certainly don't want the fees on my utility bills to go way up when we start operating it. If you don't want staggering increases in City taxes or utility bills vote "NO".

Like this comment
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 10, 2011 at 7:02 pm

"Measure E poses zero risk. It does not determine any specific technology" (Peter D.)

So, Peter, are you saying the the BEST environmentally appropriate technology will used, including plasma arc?

Like this comment
Posted by Joe
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 10, 2011 at 7:37 pm

Craig, please stop your posts about plasma arc technology. No one cares. The questions you ask and the issues you raise have already been answered: Web Link

Thank you!

Like this comment
Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 10, 2011 at 8:05 pm

The epidemic of fatal hepatitis in Asia is a direct result of the use of human excrement as a fertilizer.

Apart from the host of toxic bacteria and viruses that human excrement is riddled with--it is also a source of heavy metals, other toxins and parasites.

Western civilizations health was built upon the separation of human excrement and human diet.

It is safer to use human urine as a fertilizer--as urine is sterile--but it still contains drug, inorganic toxins and heavy metals contaminants.

Bad idea-bad science

--do not eat where you sh-t is wise advice.

Like this comment
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 10, 2011 at 8:13 pm

"Craig, please stop your posts about plasma arc technology. No one cares. The questions you ask and the issues you raise have already been answered: Web Link"

Joe, thanks for your opinion. In fact that rant that you posted answered next to nothing. For example, are they still calling plasma arc incineration? Are they sticking with their claim that plasma arc would be inefficient, with the feedstocks available in Palo Alto? Are they still making the claim that plasma arc produces more CO2 compared to anaerobic digestion? Are they still claiming that plasma arc is harmful to human beings? I have knocked down all these false claims in the past, but you, apparently, did not get the message.

I would take one argument from that rant, namely the Precautionary Principle: If toxic AD compost is to be produced, this would invite a serious rejection of the model, until the proof of no harm is proven by the advocates.

Therefore, Joe, I will not cease and desist. However, you are quite welcome to make some rational arguments. In the meantime, I will continue to resist this irrational anaerobic digestion project, and suggest a much better solution.

Please feel free to counter my arguments. If you are serious, you will use your full name, but I will accept any serious, rational arguments, if you have any.

BTW, where is Peter D. hiding?

Like this comment
Posted by neverheardof
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 10, 2011 at 8:13 pm

I have never heard of any asian got dissease from this, because they cook every thing thoroughly before they put it into their mouths.

Like this comment
Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 10, 2011 at 8:26 pm

The CDC has shown that the Asian epidemic of fatal hepatitis is a direct result of the contamination by human excrement.

That is the science--and the tragedy for the Asian community.

The proposal to recycle human excrement is very dangerous nonsense , even if you nuke the human excrement with radiation you still have the lethal problem of heavy metals and drug residue

Like this comment
Posted by stephen
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 10, 2011 at 8:58 pm

Why is there a big No on E ad in the middle of the Yes on E op-ed? Come on PAW - this is just plain ridiculous.

Like this comment
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 10, 2011 at 9:17 pm

"Why is there a big No on E ad in the middle of the Yes on E op-ed? Come on PAW - this is just plain ridiculous."

Stephen, I don't see any embedded "ad", as you charge. There are just some opposing opinions. Why don't you make your own arguments, and defend them?

Like this comment
Posted by Alex DiGiorgio
a resident of another community
on Oct 10, 2011 at 10:01 pm

James, I appreciate your contributions to the conversation. But I have to disagree, amigo.

Your first assertion ("Biogas is unproven") begs for a long night of hoppy CA IPAs and google searches. (I recommend the Bear Repubic's Racer 5 or Firestone's Union Jack).

The cost-effectivness, reliability, and life-cycle efficiency of biogas technology has been proven more times than we can count. In 1895, the gas lamps of Exeter, England, were illuminated by methane harvested from the city's sewers. There are also plenty of anecdotes about Assyria and Greek Leper colonies using primitive biogas technology. I'll yet you do the Googling.

We also have countless examples right here, right now, in the good ol' USA. Some of the Country's most forward-thinking municipal utilities are advancing biogas technology are in the Bay Area. And there are many other enterprising cites-counties-districts throughout CA, the rest of the Country, and (dare we compare) Europe and the International Community.

I'd encourage anyone and everyone to take a Google-glance at:

In the Bay Area:
•East Bay Municipal Utilities Dist. (EBMUD); Oakland, CA (they’ve been utilizing biogas for 30 years)
•Millbrae, CA (about 20 miles N. of Palo Alto)
•Central Marin Sanitation Agency; San Rafel, CA (about 40 miles N. of Palo Alto)
•San Jose/Santa Clara – They’ve be at it for four decades. (YouTube video search "San Jose methane")

In the State of California:
• Riverside’s Water Quality Control Plant (RWQCP)
• Los Angeles County Sanitation District (Palmdale Water Reclamation Plant)
• San Diego’s Point Loma Wastewater Treatment Plant (they’ve been at it 30 years) & North City Water Reclamation Plant
• Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) – Elk Grove Plant
• Humboldt Waste Management Authority
Corona, CA (Clearwater Cogeneration Wastewater Control Facility)
• Chino, CA (Inland Empire Wastewater Plant)
• Laguna, CA
• Santa Maria, CA
• Burlingame, CA
• Palm Springs, CA
• San Louis Obispo, CA
• Modesto Irrigation District
• Turlock Irrigation District
• Imperial Irrigation District (
• North of the River Water Treatment Plant in Shafter, CA
• Chico’s Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
Miller-Coors Brewing Company; Irwindale CA
• Gill’s Onions; Oxnard, CA
Strauss Family Creamer; Petaluma, CA

In The USA:
• Des Moines, IA
• San Antonio, TX (check out ‘
• Waco, TX (check out ‘WMARSS’ for a similar scenario)
• Alberta Lea, MN
Ottumwa, IA (Water Pollution Control Facility)
• West Lafayette, Indiana (home of Purdue University)
• Boston, MA (Greater Lawrence Sanitary District; Clinton, Pittsfield, and Rockland Wastewater Treatment Plants
• Newton Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant in Brooklyn, New York
• Wards Island Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant, New York
• The ‘Deer Island Sewage Treatment Plant’ of the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority
• King County, WA
• City of Gresham, OR
• Essex Junction Municipal Biogas Generator, VT
• Grand Junction, CO
• Fort Collins, CO (New Belgium Brewery)
• Milton, PA (see the ‘Milton Regional Sewer Authority’ – by definition an authority on biogas ;-)
• Dairy farms all over Wisconsin
• Tucson, AZ (see: Ina Road Water Pollution Control Facility)
• Norman, Oklahoma

…see what I mean about countless?

We haven't even mentioned Sweden, Germany, India, Tanzania, Rwanda, Australia, Brazil...

But I'm glad to hear you like Solar panels. Since you're fan of PV, you'll be happy to know Palo Alto's innovative policy planners are structuring a Local CLEAN Program, which will feature 1) Standard Offer Contracts and 2) predictable interconnection procedures for solar and biopower projects deployed within the City's municipal service territory.

In other words, if we pass Measure E we'd be able to entertain the possibility of putting a large, multi-acre, solar PV array atop the Biogas/Compost facility that could be built. Or a green, grass covered roof. Who knows, if we pass Measure E, we can all offer ideas.

Also, why worry about the cost of these facilities (approx. $40 million) when we're so far from spending or allocating any money? Measure E is about the public's options with the 10 acres of the dump next to the regional sewage plant. Voting YES will set make this space available without spending a dollar. After that, the City will be legally required to conduct environmental review according to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). And the City will have much more leverage when discussing proposals with biopower developers and compost vendors.

Sharon, I'd love to set your mind at ease also. Anaerobic digestion is one of the most common ways of killing pathogens (and odors) in sewage and wastewater. Recycling energy from organic waste doesn't risk fecal contamination, and neither should the biosolid digestate that is left over from the AD process.

For using biosolids as a fertilizer or soil amendment, the City may want to consider sequestering biosolids from sewage and those of foodwaste (which has a more controllable input/feedstock).

But again, we're getting a little a head of ourselves since we still need to have a viable place to locate an Biopower & Compost facility.

At a minimum, we should vote 'YES' on Measure E because it will allow us to have more conversations like the ones people have been having recently. People are discussing the future of Palo Alto's waste management & natural resource policy with renewed interest and passion. If we pass Measure E these conversations will continue; we can explore (and debate) the best path forward with many diverse opinions and ideas.

If we vote 'No' our community's fate be to have a symbolic gesture toward genuine sustainability. We can harmonize Palo Alto's Zero Waste Initiative with its Climate Action Plan so that the two are mutually reinforcing. And we'll literally save millions ratepayer dollars in the process (EBMUD and many of these others places have).

What do you say, James? Ready to Vote YES on E?

Like this comment
Posted by Me Too
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 10, 2011 at 10:10 pm

@Alex, that's a long post, but I wish you'd used less smug sarcasm. For those of us actually trying to figure this out, that's a big turnoff.

I still really don't get why we are having a vote to un-dedicate parkland when we don't have a plan for what we want to do. It strikes me, possibly, as a tactic used ask for a little bit at a time in order to get something that wouldn't be approved as a whole. And it does remind me of the HSR bond approach, where they put up the bond without the full plan and got the voters (including PA City Council) to approve, only to find that the actual plan was a disaster. Why take an action now while we are still figuring out what to do?

Like this comment
Posted by James Hoosac
a resident of another community
on Oct 10, 2011 at 10:46 pm

@Alex, all the little pet projects you listed bears no proof that biomass is a viable option for alternative energy. The City of Palo Alto has enough pet projects of its own.

Let's face it. Even solar depends on heavy government subsidies. Biomass is even farther away. All of these implies huge cost, even before any conclusion, to the city government - hiring consultants, environmental issues, handling lawsuits, etc.

10-acre solar panel will generate an order of magnitude more electricity than 10-acre of biomass. And its by far cleaner, without the mess, stink, and pollution.

I'm not saying we should put 10-acre of solar panel in the park. I just want to demonstrate that this biomass idea is so ridiculously bad.

By the way, zero-waste city is a pipe dream. It will imply Nazi-style ordinances to force residents to put up so much extra time to sort out garbage. There is zero chance it will work.

Like this comment
Posted by James Hoosac
a resident of another community
on Oct 10, 2011 at 11:07 pm

And a brief look at Wikipedia makes me even more clearer that this project is a bad idea.

Biomass generates its own waste: digistate (solid waste) and waste water. Both are harmful to the environment, and they are mixed together. And you can't just dump them into the bay.

See, the so-called savings of not shipping yard waste to Gilroy is greatly diminished once we add the cost of processing the complex gooey waste from anaerobic digestion.

Like this comment
Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 11, 2011 at 11:02 am

The idea that our waste disposal, and composting needs, must be handled in Palo Alto makes about as much sense as claims that our food must be grown wholly in Palo Alto, that all of the energy we consume must be created locally, that all of the water we use must come from the aquifers underneath our city boundaries, and that only people who have jobs in Palo Alto can live here. Anyone making those claims would be dismissed out-of-hand. So, what makes this argument about local disposal of certain kinds of our community waste so compelling when clearly everything we do as individuals, as a city, and as a society is woven into a tapestry of regional cooperation and resource allocation?

Take the Palo Alto Water Quality Plant, for instance:

Web Link

The Regional Water Quality Control Plant is owned and operated by the City of Palo Alto for the communities of Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Mountain View, Palo Alto, Stanford University and the East Palo Alto Sanitary District. The Plant is an advanced treatment facility that uses gravity settling, biological treatment with microorganisms and dual media filtration to remove unwanted organic materials and toxins from the approximately 22 million gallons a day of wastewater generated by the service area’s 220,000 residents. The Plant’s treated effluent meets all of the stringent requirements for discharge to the sensitive South San Francisco Bay.

Claiming some newfound principal of “locality”, should Palo Alto end its participation with all of the nearby cities, and Stanford, that are currently customers of this facility, telling them that: “you must build your own water quality plant to take care of your own waste?” It’s hard to believe that most rational Palo Alto residents would go along with such a proposal.

Other claims about savings are not remotely believable because a fully vetted business plan has not been developed. Nor have all of the costs associated with such a project. For instance, the City has a habit of charging the Utility rent on the office space that the Utility occupies, even though those offices are already owned by the City. Has the rent on ten acres of prime Palo Alto land (nominally worth $5M an acre) been included in any of the cost estimates being promoted by the “E”-people? And what about bond financing costs, site mid-life refurbishment costs, or site end-of-life tear-down costs? Anyone considered any, or all, of these necessary expenditures?
And what about the cost of our electricity? The fact that this facility will generate some amount of electricity needs to be considered against the total energy budget for the city. Also needing some consideration is how the total cost of this facility will affect our individual electricity costs? It’s hard to believe that our electricity costs will go down because of the Utility’s being forced to buy power from this facility. Not only will the construction (and financing costs) need to be added into the cost basis for this power, we also need to remember that because Palo Alto’s customer base is very small, the Palo Alto Utility often has to pay more for its bulk electricity purchases than larger customers, like PG&E. If electricity is generated locally in any significant amount, then this reduces the size of the bulk purchases the City will need to negotiate in the future--which will doubtless drive the costs of electricity up for everyone (including Palo Alto businesses) as a result. Claims of “savings” may turn out to be illusory, with offsetting, or even larger, electricity cost increases because the people behind this proposal have no idea how the “primary markets” for bulk energy commodities actually operate--being more enthralled with some ill-considered ideas about the “environment” that have no sound economic foundations upon which the Utility’s customers can depend.

Projects of this magnitude should be driven by the City’s Utility. There is no one associated with this project even remotely accountable to the Utility’s customers, or the voters. If it turns out to “go south” at some point, there will be no one from this group from which to seek compensation--people who will have played the role more of the “Pied Piper”, than knowledgeable, and accountable, Utility managers, engineers and financial analysts.

It stands to reason that new technologies of waste management will come along, from time-to-time. But regional solutions for these problems make more sense than local solutions—particularly in small, built out, towns like Palo Alto.

There are no compelling reasons to force this issue at this time. We are told that a regional facility is being built. So, why not let that facility be built and use it, rather than create another management issue for the already challenged Palo Alto Utility and Public Works Departments?

If at some future time it becomes clear that a local solution is needed, then let the City Departments tasked with managing these aspects of the City’s operations do the necessary research needed to make credible proposals to the City Council, rather than have to listen to claims from unaccountable individuals that have no credibility at the current time? The parkland isn’t going anywhere. If this local solution turns out to be a good idea, then the land can be de-dedicated later, when we have a solid business plan, and a solid engineering plan, upon which to make cogent decisions. Listening to people with no utilities management experience about the future of our utilities is most definitely a recipe for disaster.

Vote NO on Measure E.

Like this comment
Posted by David Pepperdine
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 11, 2011 at 11:10 am

Regardless of the debate on biogas and Measure E, I have to radically disagree with Drekmeier when he states "Fortunately, for every generation since, the pro side won, bringing huge benefits to our community."

Let's be clear. The Palo Alto Utilities Department is a fiscal and managerial disaster zone. We pay exorbitant rates for water, the one utility we have no choice over. The inefficiency and malfeasance of this department is legendary (recall Ulrich, the 21M Enron payment, utility workers doing private jobs on the side during working hours). Drekmeier likes it because it enables the city to raise revenue without the limitations of Prop 13.

Shut down the PA Utilities Department! It's a fraudulent, ineffective, inefficient retirement club and a city cash cow.

Like this comment
Posted by John Galt
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 11, 2011 at 11:24 am

Vote NO on Measure E.
"Global Warming" (Man Made Climate Change), a political hoax, is again being invoked to promote more political activities.
Climate Change has been going on for billions of years and will continue for billions more.
CC to Al Gore: Have you noticed that sea levels, contrary to the Gospel According to A. G., been falling? Data straight from NOAA, not the RNC.

Like this comment
Posted by Walt Hays
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 11, 2011 at 2:17 pm

Under the assumptions considered most realistic by City staff, anaerobic digestion would SAVE money. To avoid risk to the City. the Feasibility Study also recommended PRIVATE financing and construction. However, no one will spend money verifying the true costs unless the land is available. If such verification doesn't prove out in 10 years, Measure E allows the Council to rededicate the land to the park.

Like this comment
Posted by Diogenes
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 11, 2011 at 2:28 pm

NO ON E. The Yes people completely ignore the fact that the numbers that they are using to sell their project ON BASED ON A PROCESS THAT HAS NEVER BEEN USED ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD. NOWHERE. NONE. NADA. How can economic and environmental projections be made for processing wet biomass in a Dry AD process when no municipal waste facility anywhere in the world -- and there are hundreds or even thousands of them -- has ever used that process? That is guessing is it not? All of you engineers out there: Would you sign your name to such a study and present it to a City as a basis for handling its waste? Would you take a job with a company based on that unused and unproven process? If no, how can you vote that Palo Alto do so? If Measure E passes the Pro E people will press hard for that plant to be built. They have no sense at all regarding good engineering, but they are very good at misleading people on technical matters. Many many good people in town are bring so misled, and it is a shame. Look at their list of endorsers. Do you think any studied the facts, or did they just accept what Pro E told them? Look at their list. Decide for yourself. NO ON E.

Like this comment
Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 11, 2011 at 2:38 pm

Walt, the study is pretty pie in the sky, similar to the one the High Speed Rail provided, and in which many of the pro-Measure E supporters also bought into (remember Larry Klein was the one who had the city council endorse the HSR).

If the business case for this facility looks so good, why don't the 5,000 pro-measure E supporters each put up $6,000 each, as private investors, to fund this project?

Like this comment
Posted by Me Too
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 11, 2011 at 4:18 pm

@Walt, that is helpful info - "no one will spend money verifying the true costs unless the land is available." What's the back up for that? Are there private companies or investors who have publicly stated that they are ready to move forward to spend money on detailed plans when the Measure is passed?

Also, it makes the pro-E campaign seem quite misleading to me - the slogan should be - "so we can find out more." It seems that the details just aren't known, and we are taking this step to try to find out what they are. We don't know if it will work, what it will cost, and how it will be funded. Is that correct?

Like this comment
Posted by cid
a resident of another community
on Oct 11, 2011 at 4:50 pm

cid is a registered user.


Web Link

Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by Wondering
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 11, 2011 at 4:55 pm

If we really want local composting, maybe we should individually compost our yard waste -- that might lead people to plan things more appropriate for our climate and the size of their yards...

But in any case, to me, the idea of UNDEDICATING PARKLAND, for any reason, when the population of Palo Alto is growing, and parks are needed for recreation and sanity, is absurd... This land is just as valuable to me as a citizen, as any other land use... just because it looks "vacant" doesn't mean it's less valuable... and the fact that at one time, it was a "dump" doesn't make it less valuable, either.

Instead, there seems to be a group of guys (gender pronoun intended) intent on building their experimental pet project with taxpayer money who are pushing this proposal.

Like this comment
Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 12, 2011 at 7:25 am

There was a very telling advertisement in the two local daily papers today. Not only are the names of the "usual suspects" listed, but the names of the organizations endorsing this idea are listed:

American Muslim Voice Foundation
CLEAN Coalition
The Climate Foundation
Dean Democratic Club of Silicon Valley
Green Party of Santa Clara County
Peninsula Democratic Coalition
Santa Clara Democratic Party
Silicon Valley Action Network
Students of a Sustainable Stanford

Virtually none of these organizations are Palo Alto-based, so they certainly don't pay utility bills in Palo Alto. It's a fair bet none of these organizations pay property taxes in Palo Alto, or have any idea of the cost-escalation problems associated with Palo Alto government.

Measure E seems to be another example of people from outside of town hijacking the politics, and in this case, a function of government (since the Utility is a wholly-owned activity of local government). The Palo Alto electorate is being used as pawns in an agenda that seems heavily controlled by groups with a "big government" agenda.

Back in 1988 there was a referendum to ban nuclear-generated electricity from the Palo Alto power grid. This ballot measure was soundly defeated, but it took the likes of EPRI and Stanford to join in the fight against that craziness. It would be interesting to compare the names of those supporting the No-Nuclear-Electricity Ban of 1988 with those supporting this idea.

Every day, the more we learn about this idea, the stronger the need to:

Vote NO on Measure E.

Like this comment
Posted by Me Too Too
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 12, 2011 at 9:18 am

Me Too has it right. This feels just like the HSR bond when we were asked to approve something and let the details work themselves out...we know how that turned out. Complete disaster. I'm voting no on E.

Like this comment
Posted by oldbasse
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 12, 2011 at 12:28 pm

I say support the measure and vote YES on E.

My experience during the past +70 years is that being FOR something -- even something risky and perhaps dangerous -- tends to stimulate effort, optimism, innovation, entrepreneurship and more. As well as lead to positive gains.

YES on E seems to entail no danger or risk to the Palo Alto community at large.

Like this comment
Posted by An Engineer
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 12, 2011 at 6:29 pm

Measure E proponents fail to mention a critical fact: composting returns all the carbon that plants sequestered from the atmosphere back into the atmosphere. About half of the CO2 comes directly from the respiration of the organisms that break down the material, the rest results from the breakdown and burning of the methane gas they produce.

Composting is a huge environmental hoax and a disaster for our atmosphere. Do what nature does: bury the stuff deep and let it turn to coal.

Like this comment
Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 13, 2011 at 9:33 am

If the parkland is un-dedicated, the city will be able to build the compost facility without any further voting from the citizens; since the utility is treated as a quasi-separate entity, all they would need to do is raise the utility rates to finance what ever they want build - there will be no accountability as to meeting any of the goals being dreamt about.

Vote No.

Like this comment
Posted by Me Too
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 13, 2011 at 11:53 am

Is what Common Sense says above true? Can any of the pro-E people confirm or deny (Walt Hays?)? If so, that is very bad for the pro-E case - this has been pitched by pro-E people as just a step that allows more study. If in fact there are no more chances for voter approval, this is a HUGE step and really like the HSR fiasco - a pig in a poke.

(Sorry to post on both threads, but not sure who reads what...)

Like this comment
Posted by Odor management?
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 16, 2011 at 6:59 am

I'm glad we are having this discussion about a potentially beneficial waste management and energy generation plan. I'm curious about the details, specifically, about odor management.

I visited several anaerobic digestion facilities years ago, and what struck me was the really awful odor.

What do the plans say about odor control?


Like this comment
Posted by none
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 18, 2011 at 1:54 am

In response to Common Sense, Me Too et al..A quote from the document, City Attorney's Impartial Analysis of Measure E

"The ordinance authorizes but does not require the City to build and operate a Compost Facility at the Site."

Like this comment
Posted by svatoid
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Oct 18, 2011 at 8:38 am

Had a Yes on E handout left at my door the other day.
Saw 5 good reasons on it not to vote for measure E--Peter Drekmeier, Jack Morton, Larry Klein, Jim Burch and Ellen Fletcher.
These people have no idea of financial responsibility, refuse to take responsibility when things go wrong on their watch and have no respect for individual rights.
They all also think that if they mention that they were once mayors or vice-mayors in Palo Alto (i.e. they won a popularity contest with their fellow backslappers) thatit will influence me to vote for this folly.

Vote no on E.

Like this comment
Posted by Me Too
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 18, 2011 at 9:22 am

Thank you "none." So that says that, without any further vote, the Council can build and operate a plant. So without any plan to look at, this is the only chance for the voters to have a say. This sounds A LOT like the HSR fiasco to me - the pro-side sells us hopes, wishes, and dreams, and then once the vote is over, the real costs and issues will emerge.

I really don't understand, nor have I seen anyone make any real argument, why we should approve this today without any real plan to look at. We are voting for a pig in a poke and hoping that a FUTURE council then does the right thing. It seems like there is too much at stake to just hand it over to others. I really think this should be voted down and not reconsidered until there is a real plan to look at.

Like this comment
Posted by cbliss
a resident of Monroe Park
on Oct 18, 2011 at 11:55 am

Before the current sewage treatment plant was built, Palo Alto composted its waste. As a child, I did a paper on it and got to walk on it. They called the output Milorginite, named after the original process in Milwaukee. The technology is proven and safe. Interestingly, the proposed location is where I recall it being in the 50s and 60s. Years later, on a tour of the new plant, I asked why we (Palo Alto) had switched to incineration. It was told gas is cheap and incineration is easy.

Perhaps it is time to return to something that worked efficiently for decades.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

All your news. All in one place. Every day.

Couple brings Chinese zongzi to Mountain View
By Elena Kadvany | 0 comments | 5,906 views

Don't Miss Your Exit (and other lessons from an EV drive)
By Sherry Listgarten | 9 comments | 1,685 views

Goodbye Food Waste!
By Laura Stec | 4 comments | 1,423 views

Can cities handle our traffic mess? I doubt it!
By Diana Diamond | 17 comments | 1,151 views

"Better" Dads and "Re-invigorated" Moms: Happier Couples
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,139 views


Register today!

​On Friday, October 11, join us at the Palo Alto Baylands for a 5K walk, 5K run, 10K run or half marathon! All proceeds benefit local nonprofits serving children and families.

Learn More