In Florida in 2015, the Palm Beach County Solid Waste Authority opened the first waste-to-energy facility built in this country in 20 years. This distinction, and its accompanying economic development, could have belonged to Ada County.
In 2010, Ada County Commissioners Fred Tilman, Rick Yzaguirre and I were seeking ways to save money for taxpayers and landfill ratepayers. When representatives of Dynamis Energy, a local startup company in Eagle, approached my colleagues and me with a proposal to build a waste-to-energy facility at the county’s landfill, we saw an opportunity for savings to be realized.
Shortly after putting out a Request for Expressions of Interest, all three members of our Board signed the first of a series of contracts with Dynamis to create site-specific plans for the project and obtain the necessary environmental permits. We operated on a short timeframe due to the limited availability of federal stimulus dollars that made this project economically feasible.
The Dynamis project provided a win-win-win situation for the people of Ada County. It would have: 1) saved $10 million for trash customers in just its first five years in operation; 2) created temporary jobs for construction workers and permanent jobs for plant operators; and, 3) provided enough power to supply thousands of households daily or the equivalent in new commercial customers.
My 2012 Republican Primary opponent and his supporters worked hard to induce mass hysteria among residents living near the 40-year-old landfill by providing inaccurate information about the Dynamis project, its environmental impact and the relevant laws.
In fact, the proposed Dynamis project was able to pass all of the EPA and DEQ requirements, much like the similar – but significantly larger and less sophisticated – waste-to-energy plant that opened in Palm Beach County, Florida, in June of 2015.
The Florida waste-to-energy plant, built and operated by the Babcock & Wilcox Company, cost $672 million to build and processes 3000 tons of municipal waste per day, or about 7.5 times as much as Ada County’s Dynamis plant would have processed.
The Palm Beach County Solid Waste Authority, which owns the facility, boasts that it was the first waste-to-energy plant built in the country in 20 years. Ada County’s Dynamis plant would have had that distinction, had it not been for my opponent’s Chicken Little “sky is falling” campaign approach.
According to the Energy Recovery Council’s 2014 report: “In summary, available studies show that modern WTE (waste-to-energy) facilities, designed and operated in accordance with North American or EU regulations, do not adversely impact human health or the environment.”
Dynamis Energy, the Eagle startup company that worked with Ada County to try to save money for ratepayers, is now providing its portable, environmentally friendly, combustion chambers to the federal government.
Contracting for the Dynamis project was the right thing to do. It did not become the wrong thing to do merely because, two years after the original contract was signed, the landfill neighbors and local media were used as pawns to disparage the project, by a politician, for his political gain.
In 2013, after I left office, Ada County Commissioners Dave Case and Jim Tibbs cancelled the contract and walked away from the nearly $2 million our 2010 Board had invested in the Dynamis waste-to-energy project.
Unfortunately, Commissioner Case’s defamatory campaign tactics cost Ada County ratepayers $2 million in forfeited investment and countless millions more in the unrealized economic benefits and ratepayer savings of the Dynamis waste-to-energy project.