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Landfill hopes to get greener

Environment: Val Verde facility looks for new deal to get cleaner-gas incentives

Posted: July 7, 2011 1:30 a.m.
Updated: July 7, 2011 1:30 a.m.
 

Owners of the Chiquita Canyon Landfill were a step closer Wednesday to producing “green energy” by marketing the methane that’s produced as a natural byproduct of the landfill.

Waste Connections Inc., owner of the landfill in Val Verde, recently asked Los Angeles County planning officials to amend the firm’s conditional-use permit to table one of three county taxes it pays to operate the dump and extract methane for sale.

The company, which has been operating in the Santa Clarita Valley for almost 40 years, says the exemption would allow it to harness naturally occurring, energy-rich methane at the landfill and sell the gas.

The public is typically given 15 days to weigh in on permit changes. But in this case, the public was given an extra week to voice any concerns about the permit change, one county official said.

“We gave them an extra week, and we didn’t receive one single letter,” department spokesman Ron Glaser said Wednesday.

According to county procedure, one letter of opposition would have killed the application.

Since the application was not opposed, it now goes before the county Regional Planning department for final approval.

Green programs
The Chiquita Canyon Landfill, about three miles west of Interstate 5, near Val Verde, boasts a couple of “green” programs already in place, including: allowing only nonhazardous solid waste, expanding its stormwater-management system and adding groundwater-monitoring wells, a spokesman said.

It also uses falcons as a natural way of controlling nuisance birds and for control of rodents.

The company received its conditional-use permit in November 2000 when the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors allowed it to continue operating as a waste disposal site.

Under the terms of its permit, it pays a 10-percent “tipping fee” for every truck that delivers waste and an additional tax on any gas extracted at the site.

It’s also required to pay a third tax for any gas turned into energy.

It’s this third tax, described in the gas-to-energy clause, the company wants removed from the language of its permit.

“This request for a minor-language modification goes a long way in encouraging the production of green energy from Chiquita Canyon Landfill,” said Mike Dean, district manager for the facility.

Energy from methane
Landfill gas is generated through the degradation of solid waste, broken down by microorganisms.

The quality of the gas depends on the content of the waste.

Many factors affect the quality of landfill gas including: composition of the waste, the presence of oxygen, temperature, the layout of the land and the amount of time waste sits at the site.

Typically at landfills, methane and carbon dioxide are produced in equal amounts.

Methane is the important component of landfill gas because it generates energy.

According to its profile online, Waste Connections Inc. is an integrated solid-waste-services company that provides solid-waste collection, transfer, disposal and recycling services in mostly secondary markets in the western and southern United States.

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