Oil disposal task force urged to explore waste-to-energy

514
(PNC photo)

Guam – While statutes restrict the development of waste-to-energy facilities on the island, both the Guam Power Authority and the Guam Environmental Protection Agency proposes exploring the technology in used oil disposal. 

The Guam Legislature held a public hearing on Bill 70-35 on Thursday. The proposed legislation, introduced by Sen. Telo Taitague seeks to create a task force concerning used oil disposal.

Taitague said a meeting with the GEPA, GPA, and other agencies made it clear that Guam does not have a plan to address used oil disposal once the power authority shuts down the Cabras power plants in Piti.

For 25 years, according to GPA general manager John Benavente, the power authority burned used oil at the Cabras power plant. It started out as a temporary solution but without a viable option, burning of used oil has become the norm for GPA.

GPA mentioned in previous reports that Cabras 1 and 2 will be decommissioned after the new, environmentally-compliant power plant becomes operational in 2021. In the past, GPA said the two power generators have been non-compliant with federal emission regulations under the Clean Air Act.

Taitague said, “Per a directive issued in 1990 by Governor Joseph Ada requiring GPA to accept and burn used oil, this approach continues to be the only way that Guam deals with used oil,” she said. “Aside from short periods of time, at least this is what I’ve been informed, when some of the used oil was shipped to off-island companies.”

Benavente said the power authority could be severely impacted by the lack of an economically viable solution to used oil disposal. During a stakeholders meeting in 2016, Benavente emphasized that the solution lies in the private sector.

Waste-to-energy

Benavente brought up the waste-to-energy option during the hearing. The technology was recommended back in 2013 as part of the Guam Energy Action Plan.

According to the energy action plan,  WTE power generation encompasses a wide variety of technologies, including anaerobic digestion of organic wastes and sewage, landfill gas (methane) capture, direct combustion (incineration), cofiring with other fuels (such as biomass or coal), gasification (to produce a combustible gas), and pyrolysis (producing bio-oils that can be used to generate electricity).

“Waste-to-energy power generation could be useful on Guam because it provides base load power – about 3 percent for us – and could make productive use of some of the trash that is currently disposed of in the landfills,” Benavente said.

However, waste-to-energy development is a longer-term strategy strategy because of the existing legislative hurdles and the need to conduct waste characterization studies before choosing the appropriate WTE technology for Guam, according to Benavente.

Public Law 25-175 restricts the development of these facilities on Guam, Benavente said.

A portion of the law reads, “”No officer or agency of the government of Guam shall implement or expend funds, or commit resources to implement any portion of the Integrated Solid Waste Management Plan for the Island of Guam which is disapproved or deleted by this Act or any waste-to-energy facility, or any incineration project aimed at reduction of municipal solid waste.”

Create a baseline data

GEPA supports GPA’s WTE recommendation. Public information officer Nic Rupley said, “I may be putting the cart before the horse here but I believe that this body and future legislative bodies must prepare to entertain a wide range of ideas and solutions that may include waste-to-energy and incineration.”

Rupley read the testimony from GEPA administrator Walter Leon Guerrero.

Nissan general manager Phillipe Gerling mentioned other alternatives to GPA’s energy recovery program for used oil, which are in compliance with US and Guam EPA regulations.

Gerling said the proposal relies on commercial EPA-licensed transporters to ship used oil to the U.S. mainland for disposal in EPA-licensed processing or refining sites.

However, he said cost of shipping the used oil could have a significant impact to consumers or end-users. The proposal was presented in a hearing on another bill related to GEPA regulations on above ground fuel tanks.

In the end, Gerling encouraged the task force to gather facts on used oil disposal and establish a baseline to allow proper evaluation.

As part of the process, the task force must account for all generators of used oil – both military and civilian. It should also take into account all equipment that produce used oil on Guam, according to Gerling.

Also known as the Prutehi I Tano-ta Act, Bill 70-35 also creates the duties of the task force which includes, creating goals for local policy to address the safe and proper disposal of used oil.

Previous articleBump stock ban takes effect
Next articleDRT and AG sue two errant taxpayers
Louella Losinio
Louella Losinio is PNC's managing editor. She was a former reporter for the Marianas Variety (Guam Edition) and the Guam Daily Post, former editor-in-chief and co-founder of the Pacific Island Times,. As a freelance writer, she has contributed content to various regional and local publications such as the Marianas Business Journal, Guam Business Magazine, The Guamanian, and Island Times. Aside from her decade-long experience in the media and print industry, Louella has experience in technical writing, education, and nonprofit management.