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Companies want rebid on landfill project in Stafford County

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Two companies that submitted proposals for a waste-to-energy facility in Stafford County say the selection process was flawed and hope the regional landfill board will reconsider its options.

Bradley Schneider and Kevin Furnary, who both have companies based in Virginia, said they were not interviewed before a third company, Energy Extraction Partners LLC, was chosen for a project that was advertised to convert the Rappahannock Regional Landfill’s waste into some type of alternative energy.

Stafford officials have said all three companies were interviewed, that the proposals were extensively examined, and that one withdrew.

“Once I delivered the proposal, I never heard anything,” said Schneider, who proposed a $32 million privately-financed gasification facility through his company, Recovered Energy Resources.

The Board of Supervisors rescinded its June vote to authorize a lease with EEP, putting the project back in the hands of the Rappahannock Regional Waste Management Board, which oversees the regional landfill on Eskimo Hill Road, the Belman Center in the city of Fredericksburg and several drop-off sites. Fredericksburg and Stafford representatives fill the board’s seats.

The six-member board meets at 1:30 p.m. today wednesday in the board chambers of the Stafford government center, 1300 Courthouse Road.

Discussion of the waste-to-energy project is scheduled. The R–Board could stick with EEP’s proposal, after asking them to pay for a third-party environmental assessment, or it could put the project out to bid again.

Emails from Stafford Supervisor and R–Board Chairman Paul Milde indicate that he and EEP have discussed going forward with an environmental analysis of the company’s project, and will have the county arrange informational meetings with two churches in the Brooke area in the meantime.

Furnary—whose proposal through LEEP Holdings LLC called for a several-step process that would ultimately produce a pelletized renewable fuel, a diesel substitute for the county fleet and a building material to sell—intends to reapply.

“I put time and money into the proposal, and it was predetermined,” he said. “We’re interested in getting back into this thing. My recommendation to any of these guys is to get a consulting engineer, so a third party looks at the technology. That was the missed step in Stafford.”

Furnary said he bid on a waste conversion project in neighboring Prince William County and went through several rounds of interviews. Prince William officials said a contract has not yet been awarded.

Process Began Last Fall

The R–Board asked companies for project ideas that could convert municipal solid waste into an alternative form of energy. Three companies, including EEP, presented ideas last September.

When Stafford asked for bids, three proposals were submitted—from EEP, LEEP Holdings, and Recovered Energy Resources. They offered different plans to convert the landfill’s 135,000 tons of municipal solid waste into some form of energy, with different costs and operations.

Two weeks later, on Nov. 14, the R–Board chose EEP’s $73 million, privately financed plan. An offshoot of Creative Energy Systems in Larkspur, Colo., EEP offered to lease 11 acres at the rear of the landfill near the Sheriff’s Department’s shooting range and build a 150,000-square-foot building. Currently, the gravel-covered site is a temporary holding area for old appliances, empty garbage receptacles and discarded tires.

The R–Board used a matrix to evaluate the bids, although documents obtained by The Free Lance–Star through a Freedom of Information request do not make it clear how and when it was completed. The matrix uses a 10-point scale of various categories, including the overall advantage to the R–Board in terms of financial risk and rewards.

Overall, EEP earned the highest number of points—85 of 100. LEEP was ranked second overall and had the best track record of successful ventures, but the matrix was revised in June, after LEEP’s engineering and construction partner withdrew.

The documents obtained from the Stafford County government included no records of interviews conducted by the R–Board with officials from the companies interested in the project.

The R–Board authorized a final lease agreement with EEP in March after supervisors made the path easier by allowing power-generating facilities to be a by-right use on county property. A conditional-use permit, with public notification and hearings, was previously required.

Since the landfill on Eskimo Hill Road is owned equally by Stafford and Fredericksburg, with Stafford receiving two-thirds of the revenue, both localities must approve any lease on the land. Stafford gave its OK in June; Fredericksburg’s City Council was scheduled to do so in August.

But residents objected. Questions arose about EEP’s plan, which calls for “cooking” the landfill’s trash and tires in oxygen-less environments under extremely high heat, but not from direct burning. Gases released during the process would be burned to produce electricity, of which 15 megawatts would be sold to Dominion Virginia Power.

Other byproducts would be ash and a tar-like residue, which EEP proposed either selling or returning to the landfill.

The system is known as pyrolysis and hasn’t been tested in a fully operational facility in the United States. The Department of Environmental Quality would permit the project, but that could take a year since it is a new technology, a local director has said.

‘Take a year off’

The Rappahannock Regional Landfill opened in the mid-1980s, and Fredericksburg became a partner soon after. Its sixth, lined cell was opened this summer at a cost of $2.5 million.

Pinpointing the lifetime of a cell is difficult, Deputy County Administrator Keith Dayton said on a recent tour of the landfill.

Because of the uncertainty over the life of the landfill’s remaining space, the two other companies interested in the waste-to-energy project said there was no rush.

“The best thing Stafford could do would be to cancel this, to take a year off. Let me get mine built and running, if you like what we see, then we can talk,” said Schneider, who was finalizing his company’s first project in Michigan. “Not a whole lot is going to change in a year, but by that time, we’d have a working plant” that could be visited.

Like Furnary, Schneider intends to resubmit his project if the R–Board decides to issue a request again. His firm received the lowest score in the rankings.

“If they’re really going to be open-minded and take a serious look at these, I will submit virtually the same proposal,” he said. “I’m not looking for tires or other stuff. I think my proposal as it was is adequate to stand.”

Katie Thisdell: 540/735-1975