December 10, 2005

CA AB 1090 - 11/16/05 - R.E.N.E.W. L.A.’s Need for Regulatory Relief

In this presentation, Los Angeles Councilmember Greig Smith addresses the need for clarification of terms in current State regulations to enable his ambitious landfill diversion plan (see "R.E.N.E.W. L.A. - Jumpstarting Waste Reform in L.A." article 08/05) to proceed with development. He also outlines the environmental and employment benefits to Los Angeles for implementation of "R.E.N.E.W. L.A."


Hon. Greig Smith, Member, City Council
Chair, Ad Hoc RENEW LA Sub-Committee, City of Los Angeles

We introduced in Los Angeles City Council two months ago a program called RENEW LA. It stands for Recovering Energy, Natural Resources and Economic Benefit from Waste. It is a shifting, new paradigm from the traditional AB 939 programs, which most cities are involved in, to the next level of waste disposal. And that is zero waste. Not zero trash, but zero waste. We believe that by the year 2025 we can eliminate 90% of our trash from dependence on landfills.

There are six main features to RENEW LA.

First of all, sustainability. Los Angeles like most cities in California is a mature city. We don’t have the luxury of wide open canyons and places to dispose of our trash, nor do we desire as a city to any longer engage in that technology, which destroys our earth and pollutes our communities.

Resource and Conservation. Certainly the reduction in the use of natural resources is important in our society today, particularly in California. Environmental protection is paramount to anything we do as a city.

Renewable Energy. The City of L.A., like the state of California, has a 20% renewable energy program in force. We are moving that forward to the year 2010 from 2017. Our trash can provide a valuable asset to that. In fact, we believe we can provide 330 MW to the energy production in Los Angeles, which is about one-third of its RPS requirement.

Economic Benefit is an important part of this, as is Environmental Justice. Anything we do, obviously environmental justice is a major issue.

Currently in the City of Los Angeles, we have a trash problem of some 9.3 million tons of trash per year. 5.8 million tons are recycled. That’s a 62% diversion rate, one of the best in the state of California, and 3.5 million tons are landfilled at a cost of about $87 million. What is left over is about 14,000 tons per day, of which the City government itself picks up 3500 tons per day.

We will increase our current effort in recycling from 62% to an estimated 70% or 75% through the use of additional MRFing and conversion technology facilities. The remainder will be used to create energy, fuels, compost and biochemical products.

We conducted a program through our URS company contract, which identified five technologies that would be useful to the city in achieving its goals. Contrary to what some environmental groups say, many of these are mature technologies and not simply theories. There are over 170 plants in operation in Europe and another 70 in Japan, so they are mature technologies with long track records.

Our projections show that we can dispose 93% of our trash by 2025, but in doing so it is very important to state that AB 939 took us to the first level, the first paradigm of dealing with trash. In 1990 the City of Los Angeles was disposing of 3,500 tons of trash per day. Today, fifteen years later, with a 62% diversion rate, we are landfilling 3,500 tons of trash per day, the exact same amount. And the reason is, our growth. All we managed to do is divert our growth rate, and so we want to take it to the next level.

In the City of Los Angeles environmental justice is a major factor. In our RENEW LA plan, each part of the city will handle its own trash. We have seven basic regions of the city. Each region will have its own conversion technology plant, from the richest areas of the San Fernando Valley to the poorest areas of South Central, so that each area handles it own trash.

Looking at traditional landfilling in Los Angeles, the average tipping fee is around $25 per ton at the local landfills. At we look at the other hauling and transfer facilities, the price gets up to around $60 per ton. As you look at the County’s rail haul proposal, you get up to $70 to $100 per ton in the year 2011. The County Sanitation Board is moving toward as the primary disposal method for Los Angeles County. In our URS study, the cost of disposal with conversion technologies ranged between $20 and $60 per ton, so their costs are competitive with current local landfilling practices.

On the environment, conversion technologies are much cleaner in almost every respect than current landfilling technologies or other mass burn facilities. They create less truck traffic, less congestion, less NOX, SOX and greenhouse gases. They provide green energy to make us less dependent on fossil fuels. Our analysis says that we would produce 400,000 tons less emissions each year by converting to conversion technology plants.

AB 939 created 600 new businesses in Los Angeles, some 8,000 jobs and $2 billion in revenue. Conversion technologies in our analysis create ten times more jobs than current landflling operations. We’ve got green collar jobs increasing the tax base, increasing the job base in the City of Los Angeles.

We believe LA is a great case study of what should be done in California and the United States. We are the largest city in the United States to take this step.

We urge you to pass AB 1090, because AB 1090 will help us reach our goal. The correct placement of conversion technologies in the waste disposal hierarchy, correct definitions of such terms as “conversion technologies” and “gasification” and diversion credits will be important factors to us as we build these plants.


CONTEXT: On November 16, 2005 the California Assembly Natural Resources Committee, Chaired by Hon. Loni Hancock, held a hearing in the Los Angeles City Council Chambers. A distinguished panel of speakers presented a series of arguments advocating the passage of AB 1090 - which would correct language in its predecessor (CA Bill AB 939 in 1989) and provide additional "diversion credits" for waste that is diverted from landfill. This hearing was full of facts from credible sources that are germaine to any debate on the subject of conversion technology - the need, the opportunity, the comparative emissions data, and the overall environmental benefits.

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