A publication of Work On Waste USA, Inc., 82 Judson, Canton, NY 13617 315-379-9200 March 1992
The market for waste-to-energy plants
has declined substantially and has been adversely
affected by project cancellations and delays by municipalities,
permitting delays, an increase in recycling
and an uncertain regulatory environment...
According to a Westinghouse 1991 stock prospectus.
Citizens in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Oakland County, Michigan, rejoiced this month after Westinghouse pulled the plug on advanced incinerator contracts in both communities. Even though officials in both San Juan and Oakland County poured millions of tax payers dollars in their supportive efforts to build large incinerators, against the backdrop of intense citizen opposition in each community, Westinghouse alone made the decision to withdraw, taking startled officials by complete surprise in both San Juan and Oakland County. The reasons Westinghouse gave for pulling out were the same in both communities: permitting delays and an increase in recycling. The bottom line appears to be that Westinghouse is being hounded out of the incineration game by shaky finances and the unanticipated expenses to get their incinerators on-line in communities that are bent on doing everything in their power to stop them. Westinghouse unsuccessfully spent well over $1/2 million on an incinerator bond referendum in Monmouth County, NJ, on 11-5-91 (see Waste Not 172). On March 4, 1992, Westinghouse settled a lawsuit with the Philippine government which resulted in Westinghouse agreeing to pay $100 million in goods, services and cash to settle bribery charges involved in securing the contract to build a nuclear plant in the Philippines (see New York Times, 3-5-92, pg. D-1). Westinghouse suffered a total of $1 billion in losses in 1991. It is highly likely that Westinghouse will be selling out their share in the waste-of-energy market. (ABB, which has a penchant for buying out disillusioned incinerator vendors, already has a foot in the Westinghouse door. In 1990 it bought out Westinghouses transmission and distribution operations for $700 million.) Currently Westinghouse operates the following mass-burn municipal waste incinerators: a 510 tpd in Panama City, FL; a 518 tpd in Islip, NY; a 506 tpd in Poughkeepsie, NY; a 2,688 tpd in Chester, PA; and a 1,344 tpd in York County, PA.
March 5, 1992: OAKLAND COUNTY, MICHIGAN. Officials were stunned when Westinghouse announced it wanted to terminate its 2,000 tpd incinerator contract. Oakland Countys officials poured large amounts of money into the proposed, and highly controversial, incinerator project. Westinghouse spent at least $1/4 million in the 11-5-91 county referendum and won by a margin of 186 votes out of over 140,000 cast (the final vote after a citizen-initiated recount. See Waste Not # 172 & 177.) According to a 3-5-92 press release issued by Oakland County Commissioner Larry P. Crake: Westinghouse presented a formal contract termination notice pursuant to a provision in the contract allowing its termination as of December 31, 1991. By this action, Westinghouse rejected Oakland Countys offer to extend the contract date as authorized by the Board of Commissioners at its December 12, 1991, meeting...the original contract was awarded by the Board in early 1989...Westinghouse officials requested reconciliation of accounts pursuant to the contract for amounts owed by the County. As detailed in the contract, these non-default amounts will cover the cost of performance bonds and the costs incurred by Westinghouse in renegotiating the original contract to provide for the then newly acquired Auburn Hills site. Although precise figures are not available, the total amount owed by the county will be in the neighborhood of $1,000,000. Westinghouse officials expressed concern regarding the timing of receipt of necessary permits...The public hearing for the [Air Quality] permit is presently being held in abeyance by MDNR until after development of a state-wide policy on mercury emissions which will impact all existing and future industrial and power plant sources... For more information contact: Marilynne Burton-Ristau, Residents Against Incineration & Landfill, 17 Cardinal Hill, Orion, MI 48359. Tel: 313-373-0818.
March 19, 1992: SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO. After two days of intense meetings with Westinghouse representatives, officials announced that the contract to build the 1,040 tpd Westinghouse incinerator was terminated. The incinerator was proposed to be built in Puerto Neuvo, an area of San Juan which is home to the citys landfill which is located in wetlands and within 1 km of residents. According to Juan Rosario of the Mission Industrial de Puerto Rico this is a very polluted industrial area, near a power plant and the harbor, and most of the surrounding community is retired or elderly. But it was the residents of Puerto Neuvo who fought hard to stop the incinerator. Though more than $8 million was spent between the city and Westinghouse in their attempts to build the incinerator, no public hearings were ever held. The people held their own public hearings at which a representative of the Mayors office told the people they were ignorant for opposing the incinerator! Residents focused their pressure on the Mayor on a weekly basis. No site was publicly selected to landfill the incinerator ash. The construction costs for the incinerator were initially $50 million. If the incinerator was built, with a landfill, the costs were estimated to be $150 million. Wehran Engineering were involved in landfill studies. The Methodist Church in Puerto Neuvo were active opponents of the incinerator. Mission Industrial is a 23-year old environmental collective group which stresses community organizing. They spearheaded the fight against the incinerator by their grassroots organizing. Their message to the Mayor of San Juan was: the health of the people was not negotiable. According to El Nuevo Dia of March 20, 1992: ...The breakdown of the contract negotiations with Westinghouse, a company that has been talking with the municipality for more than a decade and, over the last seven years, has invested some $8 million in the project, was the result primarily of the slowness and the uncertainty of obtaining the different permits...This resulted in an increased cost of the plant...The last estimate was that the incinerator would have cost nearly $102 million. The municipality would have to pay $15.6 million each year for 25 years. The municipality, which spent some $4 million on the project on legal and other fees, as well as Westinghouse, had set last December 31 as the deadline for obtaining the permits, but they were not obtained. Mayor Hector Luis Acevedo indicated that the Prevention of Significant Deterioration Permit (PSD Permit), which was held up in the Environmental Protection Agency, blocked receiving the other permits...The EPA was not sitting on the permit. It was processing it, said Carl Soderburg, director of the Caribbean Office of the EPA. [According to a report in The San Juan Star, 3-20-92: EPA Deputy Regional Administrator William J. Muszynaki said the permit was renewed this week and mailed to Westinghouse Wednesday.] In fact, until last November, the office intended to grant it. In order to do that, however, it was necessary to hold public reviews that never materialized. Originally, EPA had issued that permit in September, 1989. But when it expired in February of last year, EPA, in response to an extension request, required additional information from the company about the impact that the incinerators gas emissions would have on Catano, according to Soderburg in a telephone interview. This area currently does not meet the national standard for particulate material (dust)...Westinghouse also had problems obtaining financing, which made it difficult to finalize the agreement...the demand for this kind of incinerator has been decreasing in the United States because the recycling alternative is being used to resolve the problem of waste accumulation, according to Roy Thomas, Westinghouses General Manager of the Systems Division of Energy Resources in Pittsburgh... (For a copy of the El Nuevo Dia article, translated courtesy of Steven White of St. Lawrence University, please send a SASE to Waste Not.) For more information contact: Juan Rosario, Mission Industrial de Puerto Rico, PO Box 363728, San Juan P.R. 00936-3728. Tel: 809-765-4303.