Los Angeles County votes in favor of waste-to-energy development

By Erin Voegele | October 03, 2012

In California, Los Angeles County is taking action to support the development of technologies to convert landfill waste into biofuels and biopower. In late September the County of Los Angeles Board of Supervisors voted in favor of a recommendation submitted by Supervisor Don Knabe that directs the director of public works to work in conjunction with board CEO and the county sanitation districts to actively pursue and support the passage of state and federal legislation that would establish a clear pathway to encourage the development of conversion technologies to reduce landfill disposal through the production of biofuels.

According to Knabe’s motion, that landfill waste conversion technologies would not only reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills, but also decrease air emission and create jobs within the state. The motion estimates that the solid waste currently send to landfills by residents of Los Angeles County could potentially be used to produce more than 500 million gallons of renewable fuels each year. 

“These technologies are already successfully operating in over 28 countries worldwide,” states the motion. “However, certain provisions in California State law and regulations have created uncertainty regarding the permitting of these facilities and their ability to receive renewable energy credits, thereby hampering their development in California. Many companies have decided not to pursue projects in California due to risk and uncertainty associated with the current regulatory system.”

The motion also noted that there could already be some action taking place within the state to resolve this issue. It states that California Gov. Jerry Brown indicated support for legislation that would allow a pilot scale conversion project to be considered an eligible renewable energy source under state law. He made that statement of support in a private letter to the conversion company.

The motion calls for four primary actions to take place. First, it directs county officials and stakeholders to actively pursue the support of legislation that encourages the development of waste-to-energy and waste-to-fuel projects. Second, the groups are directed to support legislation to provide renewable energy status and continue to provide diversion credits and other incentives for energy projection at existing facility within the county that generate energy from waste. Third, it calls for outreach activities to share information on technical performance and benefits of waste conversion technologies and their role in producing biofuels, meeting solid waste management needs, and reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Finally, the motion directs the county to work with companies that have developed waste conversion technologies to identify potential regulatory changes that are necessary to streamline the permitting process to allow these technologies to flourish in California while meeting the state’s strict environmental standards.