Casella won't ask for $850K
Company will use only its own money for pilot project
Friday, March 6, 2009 1:07 PM CST

HOPEWELL -- Casella Waste Management officials have withdrawn a request to use the $850,000 the company owes to Ontario County to help finance their gasification project.

Casella president Jim Bohlig told a crowd of about 100 people at a forum Thursday night that the company will use only its own money to conduct a pilot project for its "zero waste" technology at the Flint landfill. He said the money had become "a distraction."
After the more than two-hour forum, Manchester Supervisor William Eddinger, who�s been critical of the county deferring that payment, said he was happy to hear the company was no longer asking for it.

"It alleviates a major concern," Eddinger said.

But he's still uncomfortable that the county would be a partner in the project because it would be at its landfill. 
Bohlig made his announcement when someone in the audience asked if Casella would build the pilot plant without using the county money.
Bohlig also said the company will most likely spend $10 million to prove that the gasification technology can work commercially. If it does, Casella wants to negotiate a deal with the county to build a $100 million waste-to-fuel plant at the landfill.
Casella was supposed to pay the county money because it failed to complete a hydroponics greenhouse and a water line by a Dec. 31, 2008, deadline. It still plans to complete a leachate sewer line from the landfill to Geneva's wastewater plant on Doran Avenue.
County supervisors were going to vote on the payment at next Thursday's board meeting, but they now plan to hold off until April 30, so negotiations can be completed on the leachate line.
The gasification project would involve using pressure and heat in the presence of steam to extract carbon from trash. The World War II-era technology -- which wasn't previously economically feasible but now is because of volatile fuel costs -- would be combined for the first time with other technology, including some that would also turn the waste into pellets.
A group of local environmentalists "the Finger Lakes Zero Waste Coalition" has expressed concerns that the project would negatively impact the region's air, water and ground quality.
At Thursday's forum at Finger Lakes Community College, Bohlig spoke on behalf of the company, while chemist Paul Connett presented his views on why the gasification technology can't work.
Connett, a retired chemistry professor from St. Lawrence University, said material recovery, reuse and composting are among the answers. He also told the crowd "not to believe the PR hype" and that similar gasification plants in Germany and Australia failed economically.
Connett insisted that the world has to stop creating so much trash and that people must put pressure on industry to make all-recyclable products.
Bohlig told the crowd he agrees that the world must look at solid waste issues differently. But he believes Casella has already proven that it�s using alternatives at its various facilities throughout the East to do that.
The crowd was a mix of local environmentalists, seven county supervisors, FLCC students and interested residents.
In all, 12 people got to ask Connett and Bohlig questions. They included: Why so many trucks bring trash from all over the state and New England to the Flint landfill; is Connett realistic with his ideas; and why the county had already completed a short form for the state environmental reviews for the project.
Douglas Knipple, president of the local environment group, asked Bohlig how much money the county makes from having Casella run the landfill.
Bohlig said the county gets about 15 cents of every dollar Casella generates on the landfill, recycling, leachate and methane gas production but that the company also has a $50 million investment there.
Robert Matson, FLCC's Director of Public Affairs and Community Partnerships, moderated the forum.