Residents upset about waste-to-energy plant want answers
The Colorado-based company proposing a waste-to-energy facility in Stafford says it will work with county officials on residents’ concerns over the controversial project.
Proposed as a way to extend the regional landfill’s lifetime, the plant would use the little-known technology of pyrolysis to “cook” trash and tires, then burn the recovered gas to create electricity.
In a series of emails with The Free Lance–Star Friday, Energy Extraction Partners remained vague in its answers, maintaining that the project has been in the works for 16 months and that the use of tires as a balancing agent was clearly discussed in its proposal.
Joe Yavorski, managing partner of Energy Extraction Partners LLC and the president of parent company Creative Energy Systems, based in Larkspur, Colo., wrote that the company started looking at waste-to-energy facilities in 2009.
“We saw a need for small facilities that could address the local community challenges to reduce the landfill costs and generate a sustainable reliable product to be sold,” Yavorski said.
CES looked at Virginia since some employees live here, and the company contacted the state’s economic development office and then toured landfills. CES has proposed other projects, including one in Mason City, Iowa, that was rejected, and one in La Junta, Colo., which is still in progress.
In Stafford, Yavorski said the planning process began in April 2012. That August, three companies presented proposals to the R–Board, which oversees the Rappahannock Regional Landfill on Eskimo Hill Road. EEP was one of those.
The R–Board issued a request-for-proposals in October, and EEP was selected in November.
But it’s because of that proposal process that EEP defers to county officials regarding resident concerns and a call by some for a public forum, Yavorski’s emails indicated.
George Schwartz, a former Stafford supervisor and member of the new Stafford Citizens for Open Government group, is tossing around an idea for a public forum, which could include officials from the county, the company and the R–Board, with a third-party moderator. He hopes to pull the forum together in the next few weeks.
When asked if EEP would participate if a forum was organized, Yavorski wrote: “We responded to a competitive RFP process. We will work with the county.”
“We are willing to participate if the forum is county-sponsored,” Yavorski wrote later.
Yavorski had asked to respond to a reporter’s questions via email.
Yavorski holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Kutztown University in Pennsylvania, and a master’s in computer information sciences from the University of Phoenix. According to CES’ website, he is a data center architect dealing with architecture items and power cooling issues.
Financing for the $73 million privately funded project has been in the works for three years, Yavorski wrote, and normal debt financing is not ideal for this type of project. He said the company has developed relationships in the private equity market to help arrange for financing through a private equity trading facility.
“The funds we receive must be spent on building Waste to Energy plants,” he wrote.
The date for a $1 million advance payment to the R-Board, which will go toward road improvements, was pushed back to Aug. 26, from the end of June originally.
“He indicates that he is still working around certain tax consequences and that is the reason for the delay,” Deputy County Administrator Keith Dayton wrote in an email to members of the R–Board, made up of two members of Stafford and Fredericksburg’s governing bodies, along with the county administrator and city manager.
Stafford’s Board of Supervisors approved a 20-year lease for EEP to use 11 acres of the landfill on June 4. At that meeting, Dayton briefed the board on the proposal. An EEP employee answered one technical question.
On Tuesday, Stafford supervisors will discuss the proposal again after a public comment time. Supervisor Cord Sterling will ask the board to reconsider its June vote.
R–Board members—including supervisors Paul Milde and Gary Snellings, and County Administrator Anthony Romanello—will answer additional questions at the meeting. EEP was not asked to attend.
Meanwhile, county resident Bill Johnson has emailed concerns to EEP, which is calling a plant in England its model.
“EEP is pointing to that as a success, which to my way of thinking is akin to starting a football game and immediately declaring that you are the winner and should get the trophy right then,” Johnson said in an email to elected officials Friday. “EEP wants Stafford and Fredericksburg to become the U.S. guinea pig for this technology. A bit risky, I would think, since EEP has never done this before.”
Energy Extraction Partners’ proposed waste-to-energy plant at the regional landfill in Stafford County is on the minds and agendas of area residents and governing boards.
Here are some of the upcoming discussions on the plan to build a plant that uses the pyrolysis process to produce a gas to fuel electricity-producing turbines at the city–county landfill on Eskimo Hill Road.
The Stafford Citizens for Open Government will meet at 7 p.m. at England Run Library, 806 Lyons Blvd. The group will hear from several residents with concerns about the project.
The Stafford Board of Supervisors again will take up the proposal, which it had already approved. The meeting starts at
3 p.m. in the board chambers; the item is listed near the start of the afternoon portion of the meeting. The board reconvenes at 7 p.m. Chairwoman Susan Stimpson added the discussion after residents presented questions. Supervisor Cord Sterling will ask the board to hold final approval over the lease. In June, the board voted 5–0, with one absent and Sterling abstaining, to allow the county administrator to execute the lease with EEP, LLC.
The Stafford School Board will also discuss the project at its Tuesday meeting and could ask the Board of Supervisors to delay implementation of the lease until all school impacts have been examined, at the request of board member Holly Hazard.
Hazard is worried about the potential impact on Stafford schools, specifically Stafford Elementary, Stafford Middle and Brooke Point High schools, which are near the proposed site of the facility. Hazard wants the School Board to ask the supervisors to fully investigate the waste-to-energy process before the plant is built. She said that supervisors rushed to approve the facility before learning the details of the project.
“This type of rapid and potentially uninformed decision making is troublesome,” Hazard said.
The Fredericksburg City Council was scheduled to take a final vote on the EEP proposal at its Tuesday meeting, but Mayor Mary Katherine Greenlaw withdrew the item from the agenda to give Stafford officials time to address it and to give city officials time to continue researching the matter themselves. The issue is now expected on the Aug. 27 agenda.
Council voted 6–0 on July 9 for preliminary approval, with one council member absent. However, the initial vote doesn’t signal where things are headed, just that the council was going to continue considering it, Greenlaw said.
Katie Thisdell: 540/735-1975