April 26, 2007 | General

BioCycle World

BioCycle April 2007, Vol. 48, No. 4, p. 6

In one of its most important environmental decisions, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on April 2, 2007 that the EPA has the authority to regulate greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. The 5-to-4 decision was called a strong rebuke to the Bush administration, which has maintained that it does not have the right to regulate carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases under the Clean Air Act. Writing for the majority, Justice John Paul Stevens said the only way that the agency could “avoid taking further action” now was “if it determined that greenhouse gases do not contribute to climate change” or provides a good explanation why it cannot or will not find out whether they do.
The Supreme Court majority said that by providing nothing more than a “laundry list of reasons not to regulate,” the EPA had defied the Clean Air Act’s “clear statutory command.” Stevens said that a refusal to regulate could only be based on science and “reasoned justification.”
Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Environmental Protection Kathleen McGinty added: “We hope it means any further opposition and challenge to the legal standards will go away, and we can get about the job of cleaning up the auto fleet and making a dent in greenhouse-gas pollution.”
On February 26, 2007, the Governors of Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona and New Mexico signed the Western Regional Climate Action Initiative (MOU – memo of understanding) which commits the five states to these goals: Set an overall regional greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction goal by August 26, 2007 that will build on already established state goals; Develop a design by August 26, 2008 for a regional market based multisector program to achieve GHG reductions; and Establish a multistate registry to track GHG emissions and credit companies for reductions.
The heart of the program is its intent to develop a regional cap and trade policy based on California’s AB 32 GHG reduction program. The announced deadlines are consistent with California’s program which require a scoping plan for a GHG reduction approach by the end of 2008. For the other four states, the MOU ensures that a key aspect will be a cap and trade system.
Mark Jenner of Biomass Rules in Greenville, Illinois has been tracking and analyzing data for much of his career, which has spanned work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the American Farm Bureau Federation and most recently, as a consultant on the BioTown USA (Reynolds, Indiana) project. In January, Jenner launched a data tracking service for the biomass energy marketplace ( The website posts details on new biomass projects, policies and research and is updated frequently. “I needed the data for projects I was working on and it wasn’t available,” Jenner explains. “So I decided to start tracking it on a real-time basis. For our purposes, I tend to break biomass terms into three categories: 1) Science and Technology – biological, chemical and physical facts; 2) Economics and Behavior – reflecting human choice; and 3) Laws, Policies and Programs – which set decision boundaries between human behavior and scientific truth.”
Analyses are presented in his electronic newsletter, “Burning Bio News,” which primarily discusses commercial-scale biomass projects. The January/February issue, for example, reported 62 bioprojects. Leading the list was California, with 11 projects. Annual rated capacity, in terms of energy product output, was calculated and included 1.173 million gallons of ethanol, including cellulosic; 275 million gallons of biodiesel; and 63.8 MW biomass generating capacity. Of the 62 projects, 21 have been proposed, 18 are in planning, 14 are under construction and six are in operation.
Jenner will be writing a column for BioCycle Energy, reporting trends and insights gained from his data tracking. The new column kicks off in the May 2007 issue of BioCycle.
Twenty-one federal agencies have signed a Memo of Understanding for Federal Leadership in High Performance and Sustainable Buildings that would reduce construction and demolition (C&D) waste by at least 50 percent. The U.S. Army has been performing deconstruction, salvage and recycling to reduce C&D debris. Last year, an operational policy mandated that all new construction, renovation and demolition projects include contract performance requirements to divert at a minimum 50 percent of nonhazardous debris from landfill disposal.
The newsletter for recycling professionals in Pennsylvania, The Proponent, features a special report from Carla Castagnero of AgRecycle on “Achieving Quality Compost Facility Management.” Carla offers these insights:
First step is to check out all requirements on site specifications in the permit under which you’ll be operating – type and volume of feedstock will determine which permit is needed from DEP. Consider surfacing, grinding, set backs, etc. Second step is to examine local zoning ordinances since a determination concerning composting must be agreed upon for siting the operation.
Output volume is often overlooked when planning a site. People tend to forget that once compost has been finished and screened, it is not immediately ready to market since it requires time to stabilize. In Pennsylvania, compost sales are seasonal. If you have compost ready to be screened in early December, you will need a site that is big enough for material to sit for four months.
The last question – “What is the long term sustainability at a desired location?” If the neighborhood changes, will the compost operation remain a welcomed use? “Doing your homework while keeping an eye to the future is the best beginning to a successful venture,” concludes Carla.
Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns, as well as other state and local officials gathered on March 21, 2007 in a field west of Reynolds, Indiana to break ground for Phase II of the BioTown, USA Project. BioTown, notes project consultant Mark Jenner of Biomass Rules, is “simply the conversion of the town of Reynolds, Indiana from a reliance on fossil fuels to biomass-based fuels.” Phase I, completed last year, focused on educating residents about biofuels and increasing their use of corn-based ethanol, as well as soybean-derived biodiesel. In turn, residents have purchased more than 100 flex-fuel vehicles. The town also replaced its fleet with vehicles able to run on alternative fuels. E-85 fuel – 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline – and biodiesel can be purchased at the town’s lone gas station, following a $400,000 renovation project to create a so-called BioIsland.
Phase II involves construction of a facility with a suite of technologies including a manure-powered anaerobic digester; a gasifier, which employs a high-temperature process to convert biomass into a synthetic gas; and a fast pyrolysis system, which uses high temperatures and an oxygen-free environment to convert biomass into a crude-oil substitute called pyrolysis oil. The methane, syngas, and pyrolysis oil can all be burned as fuel to produce both heat and electricity. The facility is expected to start producing power later this year and will be completed in late 2008. BioTown marks the first time the machinery will be linked in a closed-loop, self-sufficient system. The final phase will use another $10 million from private investors to upgrade the system so it also can produce natural gas.
Feedstocks for the fuel and energy generation systems all will be sourced from White County, where Reynolds is located. The area is estimated to produce nearly 17 trillion Btu of potential biomass energy sources in the form of corn grain, soybeans, corn stover (the stalks, leaves, and cobs), sewage waste, grease, and solid waste. For background information on BioTown USA, see “BioTown USA Creates Power From Waste Resources” (August 2006) and “Turning Local Biomass Into New Energy Options” (September 2006). The website for the project is
Six biorefinery projects will receive up to $385 million from the U.S. Department of Energy over the next four years – expected to produce more than 130 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol per year. Combined with the industry cost share, more than $1.2 billion will be invested in these six facilities. These projects were selected:
Abengoa Bioenergy Biomass of Kansas, LLC, Chesterfield, Missouri, up to $76 million; Alico, Inc. of LaBelle, Florida, up to $33 million; BlueFire Ethanol, Inc. of Irvine, California, up to $40 million; Broin Companies of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, up to $80 million; Iogen Biorefinery Partners, LLC, of Arlington, Virginia, up to $80 million; and Range Fuels (formerly Kegy, Inc.) of Broomfield, Colorado, up to $76 million.
Cellulosic ethanol is an alternative fuel made from a wide variety of nonfood plant feedstocks, including agricultural waste as corn stover, cereal straws, industrial plant waste as sawdust and paper pulp., Cellulosic ethanol results in lower greenhouse emissions than traditional corn-based ethanol.
The Growing With Compost project is a partnership between the Ecological Recycling Society (ERS) from Greece; the Czech University of Agriculture in Prague; Friends of the Earth Slovak Republic; Community Composting Network, UK: and RREUSE (Reuse and Recycling European Union Social Enterprises). By creating compost demonstration sites in various countries, people are learning practical examples of running projects and how they can help disadvantaged groups in society.
In places like rehabilitation centers, composting is being added to the list of skills residents can acquire. A resident in Nostos, Greece told the instructor: “This is great being involved in composting. We are part of the future for the environment and Greece.” In the Czech republic, at a farm-based therapeutic care facility, garden waste will be collected from local residents, mixed with organic waste produced at the facility and composted in modular New Zealand Bays on a site at the farm. Hana Vasutova, from the University of Agriculture who is working with the group said: “It is really rewarding to see the composting site take shape and to see how much the adults with learning difficulties are getting from all the different activities at the centre.”
San Francisco has become the first city in the nation to ban use of petroleum-based plastic bags when the Board of Supervisors voted March 27, 2007 on a special bill. The Plastic Bag Reduction Ordinance would require stores to use compostable plastic, recyclable paper or reusable checkout bags. Introduced by Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, the ban also relates to global warming, oil dependence and environmental degradation.
In related events, the major Japanese supermarket chain Aeon Co. began charging five yen (about 4 cents) per plastic shopping bag at its branch in Kyoto. The chain plans to extend the test to branches in Nagoya and Yokohama later, plus remaining branches before 2010.
Ikea International announced last month that it will charge customers five cents for every plastic bag they use at their 29 U.S. stores to carry their purchases. Proceeds from the surcharge will go to environmental groups. Ikea’s U.S. stores went through 70 million plastic bags last year, and officials want to cut that in half over the first year of its “bring your own bag” policy.
In the March 2007 issue of BioCycle, a photo caption was incorrect in the article, “What’s New? Screens.” A photo on page 23 of that article identified a construction and demolition (C&D) debris recycling plant as being manufactured by Bulk Handling Systems. A clarification was sent to BioCycle by Jay Edmonds of Krause Manufacturing Inc. in Bellingham, Washington. “The photo shows a super portable Krause Manufacturing C&D sort system with a Bulk Handling screen installed in it,” he writes. “The unit is primarily designed for C&D, but is used in several different recycling applications. It is 72-inches wide, has six sort stations, and an 11-foot clear height to accommodate roll-offs. Options include a fines screen and an overhead magnet. It has PLC controls and can be run with a generator set for remote location or standard incoming power. Krause Manufacturing has been in business for 44 years and in the recycling industry for 22 years. For more information, you can visit our web site at”
Environmental Defense began four projects this year in rural China (Xinjiang province) that reduce global warming, provide villagers with sustainable energy, and benefit hard-pressed farmers. Located in China’s far west, Xinjiang is a desert region. Based on the agreement with the region’s Environment Protection Bureau, wheat farmers will omit conventional plowing and use “no-till” methods to increase storage of carbon in soils. They will also cut fuel use and reduce carbon dioxide emissions. The cotton farmers will adopt drip irrigation methods to reduce energy use and cut down on release of nitrous oxide from fertilizer. More than 150,000 acres of farmland are included in the programs.
In addition, 30,000 acres of desert will be planted with native shrubs to stop desertification and sandstorms. More than 25,000 households in Xinjiang villages will burn biogas from household methane digesters that break down organic wastes from animals and fields. Reduction in heat-trapping gases will be quantified based on a system developed with Duke University; resulting credits will then be sold on the international carbon market with profits going to the farmers. “The idea is help get the market going and let people take it from there,” sums up Dr. Zach Willey, Environmental Defense economist who helped design the program.
Philip Moore of the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) has found that aluminum chloride helps minimize nose-prickling vapors that concentrate in and around swine and dairy facilities. The compound can also significantly reduce ammonia emissions typically generated by hundreds of animals raised under a single roof.
Working at the ARS Poultry Production Unit in Fayetteville, Arkansas, Moore discovered the power of aluminum in 1992 in the form of aluminum sulfate (or alum). As explained in Resource (Feb. 2007), alum grabs onto the phosphate in poultry waste, keeping it from escaping into waterways. It also reduces the buildup of ammonia gas in chicken houses. Moore found a superior aluminum performer for treating liquid manure – aluminum chloride which can cost-effectively reduce phosphorus runoff and atmospheric ammonia levels. High levels can threaten respiratory health of both animals and farm workers, and also negatively affect water quality. For more details, Moore can be contacted via email at:

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