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Leaders opposed to plan for fuel

Some fear big impact on independent contractors

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Augusta's commissioners and legislators appear to be at odds over the city's plan to require garbage haulers to use compressed natural gas to fuel their vehicles.

Methane gas generated from rotting trash in a closed cell is collected and processed for sale. A panel agreed to require the gas be used as a fuel source for Augusta's solid waste collection. 
  ZACH BOYDEN-HOLMES/STAFF
ZACH BOYDEN-HOLMES/STAFF
Methane gas generated from rotting trash in a closed cell is collected and processed for sale. A panel agreed to require the gas be used as a fuel source for Augusta's solid waste collection.

Sen. J.B. Powell, D-Blythe, told his colleagues during a delegation meeting Wednesday that he doesn't want any independent hauling contractors to be harmed by the expense of converting their vehicles to burn the gas, an expense that larger, national companies have agreed to absorb.

"I think it becomes our concern when you start to regulate business and reduce the competition levels," he said.

Powell said if the commission doesn't remove the requirement when it meets today, he will draft a letter of opposition to the commission and ask every member of the delegation to sign.

None of the legislators said Wednesday that they would refuse to sign.

"If they don't listen to what we're trying to tell them, then I might be willing to introduce a bill," Powell said. "... I don't think we can sit here and let them mandate what private business can do."

Augusta Commissioner Joe Jackson, a member of the committee that agreed last week to require the compressed natural gas as the fuel source for Augusta's solid waste collection contract, called Powell's move "a threatening tactic."

"I think that if it's good for Augusta, it hurts somebody else's pocketbook," Jackson said. "I think it all boils down to money."

Augusta commissioners say the $20 million investment the city will make to convert methane to CNG, require the new hauler to use the fuel and run the excess into an existing, nearby Southern Natural Gas pipeline is the best use of a product the EPA requires it to dispose of safely.

"If you can make a profit out of it or you can flush it down the toilet what would you do?" Jackson said.

If the city doesn't upgrade to produce CNG, it will still have to make $9 million in changes at the landfill to meet EPA requirements, Augusta Solid Waste Director Mark Johnson has said.

But Rep. Earnest Smith, D-Augusta, said the vehicle conversion could be so expensive that it would make smaller companies give up their hauling contracts to the national companies.

"I think that's something we need to look at," he said.

Powell predicted that if the small companies lost out, the remaining national firms would use their dominance to eventually boost hauling rates.

Selling the unused gas is a good idea, he said, which would justify the expense of installing equipment to capture it and convert it to a usable form.

Jackson, who added that he "hadn't made the connecting dots" regarding Powell's opposition, said federal grants are available to help waste haulers convert their equipment. The actual requirement to have an all-natural-gas fleet likely wouldn't be mandatory for at least five years, he said.

Two other Augusta commissioners, Jerry Brigham and Matt Aitken, said they hadn't heard about the legislative delegation's opposition.

"I suspect the people know it's better not to threaten me," Brigham said. "I think it's just the whole, 'Look at me, I'm the big boy. I can just be a schoolyard bully.' "

Brigham gave his support to the $20 million plan, and questioned the impact of requiring waste haulers to convert their equipment.

"I think it's something we ought to do to help with the quality of our air and the containment policies. Plus it would give us an opportunity to use the methane that we are generating to enhance our fleet," he said.

Waste haulers, like all businesses, "ought to be able to upgrade their equipment," Brigham said. "Things change, and when you're in business, you have different requirements always being put on you. The state's good at putting requirements on us."

AITKEN SAID that the commission had viewed the move only as a positive use for excess methane at the landfill.

"We have to do something with that gas," he said. "It's going to have to be dealt with."

But by Wednesday night, Commissioner Corey Johnson, chairman of the engineering committee that approved the measures last week, said he was reconsidering the need to make waste haulers run CNG-powered vehicles.

"I think there's other ways we can generate the funds," Johnson said. "We've got to look at it in a way to not ... monopolize the process."

While the deadline for introducing viable statewide bills passed Friday, local legislation that impacts single cities or counties can still be introduced. Passage depends on the agreement of a majority of that city's local legislators in the House and the Senate.

Sen. Hardie Davis said he was not familiar enough with the commission's plans to make a determination.

"I think there's an appropriate level of concern, and I don't know enough about what's being suggested," Davis said. "When you do have a system in place that's working, don't hinder small businesses at a time when people desperately need jobs."

Comments (42) Add comment
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keysandlocks
0
Points
keysandlocks 04/01/10 - 03:32 am
0
0
Yesterday, unless I read it

Yesterday, unless I read it wrong, the plan was to sell what the garbage trucks didn't use. So, if the requirement for the garbage trucks to use the fuel is dropped, sell all of it to the other natural gas user. Duh, get a life commissioners. It is called income, not ego.

deekster
24
Points
deekster 04/01/10 - 06:02 am
0
0
The Deke Coperhaver-Boardman

The Deke Coperhaver-Boardman Stadium and Multi-Use Convocation Center in Downtown Augusta will be "powered exlusively by" natural gas. Dysfunction Junction is the "capital of political natural gas". AGL has a "pipe line" that runs from Dysfuction Juction to Atlanta. They are "selling the gas to the Chinese". All Aboooooard!!! Next stop the Augusta Regional Airport at Bush Field Army Air Corps Training Facility and Officers Barracks. Natural Gas will be "piped into" all in bound and out bound aircraft.

deekster
24
Points
deekster 04/01/10 - 06:05 am
0
0
What's new? Dysfuction

What's new? Dysfuction Junction can't get its "sh-waste together"? Deke says this one "smells to high heaven" and he is staying away from this until he gets a "lawyers advice". "Do I hear a motion?" "Mr Brigham, do you have any gas issues?"

pointstoponder
181
Points
pointstoponder 04/01/10 - 06:22 am
0
0
Wonder what JB stands to get

Wonder what JB stands to get for this move.

ColCo
803
Points
ColCo 04/01/10 - 06:44 am
0
0
pointstoponder, you are

pointstoponder, you are exactly right. When JB gets vocal about an issue, an old saying comes to mind, hit dogs holler.

msgret92
121
Points
msgret92 04/01/10 - 06:45 am
0
0
It appears that RC is just

It appears that RC is just taking their Que from Washington on this one.

justus4
103
Points
justus4 04/01/10 - 07:09 am
0
0
Just follow the money and all
Unpublished

Just follow the money and all questions will be answered. Something, just from my astute observations, is wrong with the waste hauling business. Don't know exactly what it is, but it just seems to be an issue that no city can escape. This issue will get heated - but just find out who contributed to what elected official, then review how that elected official stands on the waste issue. Isn't that what reporters do?

Ushouldnthave
0
Points
Ushouldnthave 04/01/10 - 07:21 am
0
0
Why didn't they buy fuel when

Why didn't they buy fuel when oil was $35 a barrel and gas was $1.35 a gallon a little over a year ago? Hedging against fuel prices could have saved government, business, and the airlines a boatload now that the democratic policies have more than doubled these prices from their lows.

themaninthemirror
0
Points
themaninthemirror 04/01/10 - 08:20 am
0
0
Ushouldnthave-It appears they

Ushouldnthave-It appears they didn't.

fd1962
26
Points
fd1962 04/01/10 - 08:34 am
0
0
I can't imagine the useful
Unpublished

I can't imagine the useful lifetime of a typical garbage truck is particularly lengthy. These provisions could be required only when replacement vehicles are added to fleets. If the otherwise wasted landfill methane was offered to the fleets reasonably priced compared to their present fuel used, the contractors would rush to either convert or upgrade to new equipment. Competition would preclude regulation.

Trey Enfantay
9
Points
Trey Enfantay 04/01/10 - 08:37 am
0
0
fd1962 - Yikes, man. I'd even

fd1962 - Yikes, man. I'd even agree with your last comment yesterday or tomorrow! I'll spare you today's sarcasm.

ripjones
2
Points
ripjones 04/01/10 - 09:25 am
0
0
I wish someone would come up

I wish someone would come up to the plate and say that they would install CNG at all of their stations. Like Pilot, for instance. I'd then buy a Honda CNG automobile. We really need to get the big rigs to burn CNG, and all truck stops be sales location. CNG is clean burning, and we got bunches of the stuff. Where do I sign ??

fd1962
26
Points
fd1962 04/01/10 - 09:33 am
0
0
It IS revolutionary to
Unpublished

It IS revolutionary to contemplate a government activity that could be self-supporting, maybe even turn an eventual profit.

Little Lamb
46405
Points
Little Lamb 04/01/10 - 09:37 am
0
0
For RipJones: Yes,

For RipJones: Yes, compressed natural gas is cleaner burning than gasoline or diesel (not by much); but the problem is that compressed natural gas has less heat content than diesel or gasoline, and therefore, is more expensive on a dollar per mile basis. I'm sure the gasoline stations would install CNG filling hoses if they thought people would be happy paying more.

Little Lamb
46405
Points
Little Lamb 04/01/10 - 09:41 am
0
0
For FD: It would be

For FD: It would be revolutionary for a govenment activity to be self-supporting; but the problem is that this compressed natural gas idea above is supported only with the application of governmental force. Compressed natural gas cannot compete dollar per mile with diesel fuel for large trash-hauling trucks.

fd1962
26
Points
fd1962 04/01/10 - 09:58 am
0
0
Little Lamb, if your last
Unpublished

Little Lamb, if your last sentence is absolutely correct, that would, of course, defeat the premise of the investment at today's current fuel costs. Tomorrow's may prove different as peak oil, well... peaks.

Riverman1
84926
Points
Riverman1 04/01/10 - 09:58 am
0
0
Why pick on private garbage

Why pick on private garbage haulers? Convert county vehicles if you really want to use the stuff. That would save lots.

pointstoponder
181
Points
pointstoponder 04/01/10 - 10:03 am
0
0
Ushouldnthave, to take

Ushouldnthave, to take advantage of low fuel prices over a period of time, you have a significant storage capacity. That costs more than the price differential and the EPA regulations for fuel storage make even more costly. Besides, when the storage tanks are empty, you have to fill them again with higher priced fuel. If the tanks had run dry when fuel was close to $4 a gallon, they would be operating for an extended time on high priced rather than budget fuel.

Riverman1
84926
Points
Riverman1 04/01/10 - 10:03 am
0
0
Commissioners getting a gas

Commissioners getting a gas allowance from the county telling private companies what to put in their vehicles. Irony somewhere in that.

pointstoponder
181
Points
pointstoponder 04/01/10 - 10:05 am
0
0
Riverman, that is a good idea

Riverman, that is a good idea as long as you have fueling stations throughout the county. If they had to travel from most parts of the county to the landfill to fill the tanks, I think the lost mileage and man hours would offset fuel savings.

Little Lamb
46405
Points
Little Lamb 04/01/10 - 10:09 am
0
0
Excellent point, Riverman;

Excellent point, Riverman; and excellent response, Points. I have the compromise: Convert city vehicles to burn landfill gas. Have the filling point at the landfill, and also make the depot for all converted city vehicles at the landfill! Users of the vehicles must drive their personal vehicles to the landfill each morning to pick up their city vehicle and must return it each night before they go home. Wouldn't that work?

Riverman1
84926
Points
Riverman1 04/01/10 - 10:13 am
0
0
Exactly, LL. In Evansville,

Exactly, LL.

In Evansville, IN they are running their school buses on natural gas. They say their savings are tremendous, plus it decreases pollution.

In Santa Cruz, California, the Metro bus fleet is being converted to CNG over time. Plus, local government agencies are converting to CNG.

Riverman1
84926
Points
Riverman1 04/01/10 - 10:22 am
0
0
Being the skeptic I am, the

Being the skeptic I am, the fact that having county vehicles use this "free" source of fuel was overlooked makes me think there is something up with the trash hauling contracts. For Richmond County to suddenly jump on the CNG bandwagon, it is strange that they would go about it by making private trash haulers the first to have to convert.

What kind of business was Tony Soprano in?

egan01
0
Points
egan01 04/01/10 - 10:28 am
0
0
CNG makes a good fuel for

CNG makes a good fuel for stationary engines and heating plants. As a motor fuel it gets such poor mileage you have a range problem plus the time it tates to fuel up is excessive. Cost more than you will ever save in a motor vehivle unless you get it vary cheep.

Little Lamb
46405
Points
Little Lamb 04/01/10 - 10:29 am
0
0
You are wise, RM. I don't

You are wise, RM. I don't doubt that the school board politicians in Evansville, IN, are telling the taxpayers that converting to natural gas buses has resulted in “tremendous savings,” but the facts are that it costs more to drive a mile on natural gas than it costs to drive a mile on gasoline or diesel.

Riverman1
84926
Points
Riverman1 04/01/10 - 10:29 am
0
0
Points, the county could have

Points, the county could have 4-5 refueling in the county located at various county facilities such as the bus depot, law enforcement center and various county garages. The cost of that would be neglible, plus the fuel would be free. It is nothing more than a pump and tank that needs to be refilled on a regular basis.

pointstoponder
181
Points
pointstoponder 04/01/10 - 10:31 am
0
0
Little lamb. The landfill is

Little lamb. The landfill is a long way from most of the populated areas of the county. There would be a lot of wasted manhours and fuel driving to Blythe for someone working the downtown area. Fueling stations scattered through the county would work, but the cost of infrastructure is high. Riverman, the landfill has been selling the gas for years. A few reasons they are considering other options now: 1.the landfill is expanding and producing more gas. 2. The company they used to sell to is no longer buying all they produce as was once the case. and 3. The cost of the equipment to purify and compress the methane to CNG requires a substantial capital investment.

Riverman1
84926
Points
Riverman1 04/01/10 - 10:33 am
0
0
Equan01, not true. I'm

Equan01, not true. I'm putting a site at the bottom about CNG cost and use. LL, I believe the difference with us is that we would make the gas for nothing. http://www.commutesolutions.org/ngv.html

But, all the skepticism you guys are presenting makes me wonder just how good it would be for the private trash haulters trucks? Ha

pointstoponder
181
Points
pointstoponder 04/01/10 - 10:34 am
0
0
RM, We are on the same page

RM, We are on the same page as far as fueling stations. I think the cost of infrastructure is more than negligible, but certainly an option to be considered. I haven't checked, but i don't think the refueling is as simple as liquid fuel.

Riverman1
84926
Points
Riverman1 04/01/10 - 10:34 am
0
0
Points, the cost of putting

Points, the cost of putting CNG pumps and tanks on COUNTY LAND at various locations is not high. Plus, vehicle operators pump their own gas, etc.

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