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Lindley Estes is a business writer for The Free Lance-Star and This blog is on Fredericksburg-area business. Send an e-mail to Lindley Estes.

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Fredericksburg City Council approves landfill lease

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Fredericksburg City Council on Tuesday night unanimously approved a lease that would allow a company to establish a $73 million, 150,000-square-foot waste-to-energy plant on 11 acres of the Rappahannock Regional Landfill off Eskimo Hill Road in central Stafford County.

The city jointly owns and operates the landfill with Stafford. Energy Extraction Partners LLC would lease the 11 acres for 20 years, and the company would pay for, construct and operate the plant on its own. The company plans to generate 15 megawatts of electricity daily — which can power nearly 4,000 homes — and sell it to Dominion Virginia Power through transmission lines already on site.

Stafford’s Board of Supervisors in early June approved the lease, which the R-Board approved in April. Council will need to approve the lease one more time at its next meeting in August. Granting approval would allow Fredericksburg City Manager Beverly Cameron to execute the lease.

City Council approved the lease following a public hearing at which several Stafford residents argued that too much of the approval process, particularly in the county, has occurred behind closed doors. They argued that hasn’t given the public sufficient opportunity to review the details of the technology that would be used at the plant or the impact on the local community.

Council members assured the speakers that a more detailed discussion of the project would occur before Council votes on the lease again in August.

EEP would pay the R–Board, the Stafford–Fredericksburg authority that operates the landfill, $1 million in advance, and $100,000 per year for 20 years. EEP would pay the R-Board an additional $1 million if federal energy tax credits are received for the project.

The $1 million upfront payment would go toward road improvements on Eskimo Hill Road. Originally a country road with no shoulders, drivers and trash trucks now must share the two-lane road on their way to the landfill. Total improvement costs are estimated to be $7.4 million.

The plant is expected to extend the life of the landfill, which would save both Stafford and Fredericksburg money, and provide local jobs.

The plant would use a process called pyrolysis, which essentially speeds up the natural decomposition of trash and captures the gas that’s released, and uses it to produce electricity. If EEP receives all the necessary approvals, including air-quality permits, construction could begin this year, and the plant could be operational on a small scale by 2014.

EEP is an affiliate of Creative Energy Systems Corp., based in Larkspur, Colo. A host of other partners are involved in the limited liability corporation.

Creative Energy Systems has proposed similar waste-to-energy projects in other parts of the country as well, but some have failed to receive final approval from local governments. At least two are moving along in the process, in La Junta, Calif., and Fort Morgan, Colo.

Various pieces of the pyrolysis unit proposed for Stafford have been tested, and it has run abroad, but not in the United States. EEP needs 360 tons of municipal solid waste, per day, on average, while the landfill currently processes about 270 tons daily. EEP proposes to make up the difference by acquiring tires from a Virginia tire handler for free.

The R–Board chose EEP from among three companies that responded to a request-for-proposals in November. The other two came from Recovered Energy Resources Inc. and LEEP Holdings LLC.