ATLANTA - The Montmorency-Oscoda-Alpena Solid Waste Management Authority have been waiting for Recovered Energy Resources to find a buyer for the power it intends to produce from a gasification plant that could be constructed at the landfill. During Friday's landfill meeting RER said it has entered into a 20-year deal with the city of Wyandotte, which will buy the green energy and could move the long-delayed project forward.
Now it will be up to the the commissioners from each of the three counties to decide whether or not to accept a proposal in which RER which would claim more than 50 percent of the landfill's tipping fees, but save the landfill considerably higher amount on cell future construction and other financial obligations, such as perpetual care for the landfill after it closes.
RER's Bill Chynoweth said there have been a lot of challenges over the last several years to get to the point to where the $28 million project is set to move forward, but assured the commissioners the necessary pieces are in place and the time has come to hammer out an agreement.
"We have looked forward to this day for more than three years, but we were hoping we could have cut a ribbon on a new facility by now," Chynoweth said. "We have all endured what experts have said is the worse economic times since the great depression and I can assure you lending is nowhere near the levels of 2007 or 2008. Fortunately in July in 2011 we met our financial partner, but our biggest challenge has been to find someone to purchase the power. Today we are pleased to tell you the city of Wyandotte has agreed to purchase the power from this facility."
In exchange for building the plant and keeping the trash from going in cells, RER has requested $19 from each ton of garbage entering the landfill. The charge for a ton of garbage is $32 so the landfill would give more than half of its tipping fee revenue, receiving only $13 a ton. Schneider said what the landfill will save in the long term will still make it more profitable than it is currently.
"At first glance it may look like an imbalance, but once the waste to energy comes online we in essence take the place of your cash reserve. That cash reserve up until this point has been the greatest expense you are confronted with which is building a new cell to get the air space," Chynoweth said. "Once the plant is operating we will remove over 95 percent what you receive on a daily basis and it no longer goes into landfill. This takes the pressure, so that is where some of the imbalance comes from."
RER President Brad Schneider said recyclables will be sorted out of the trash before the gasification process begins. The commodities will then be sold on the market and a portion of the money will be given directly to the counties. This year the landfill issued checks for $50,000 to each county for their financial assurance, which means should something major happen at the landfill the counties are responsible for the cleanup costs. Schneider said with the revenue generated from the sale of the recycibles, that amount could be much higher.
"We have said from the beginning that we wanted to have some way of giving back to the communities because of our presence here," Schneider said. "The biggest thing is the recycables we pull out are not one of the key variables we use for finances, as a result we're looking at that money as a pot we can share back. We believe once the plant is running and the recycables are running through this we will add to the $150,000 allotment for the counties, another $300,000. that mean each county would get $150,000."
The key vote as to whether to enter into a business agreement could come quickly, as a special meeting with all three county boards of commissioners will gather to see the presentation. Friday's vote to accept RER's solid waste agreement, the tipping fee split and to hold the next meeting. The vote ended 4-2 with Alpena Commissioner Cam Habermehl and Montmorency County's Margaret D'Agostino voting no, while Oscoda commissioners Mike Hunt and Joe Stone and Alpena and Montmorency's Lyle VanWormer and Brock Bagget voted for the terms.
Schneider said he expects the permit process with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to go smoothly and hopes to break ground on the plant in the spring of next year.
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689.