Biomass opponents nearly derail recycling bill

A Senate recycling bill on Monday was amended and passed by a committee after it was nearly derailed by biomass energy opponents.

SB 570 by Sen. Lee Constantine, R-Altamonte Springs, lays out a path towards reaching the state’s goal of recycling 75 percent of waste by 2020. The state now recycles about 28 percent of its waste, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

The Senate General Government Appropriations Committee amended the bill to lift a state ban on yard trimmings from being disposed of in landfills if the landfill gas is used to produce electricity. A representative of Waste Management Inc. said the amendment would allow trucks to pick up both trash and yard trimmings rather than having to separate trucks.

Representatives of the U. S. Composting Council, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Advanced Disposal Services and Strategic Materials opposed the amendment, saying that yard waste should be converted into beneficial compost. Associated Industries of Florida and the Sierra Club Florida are among the groups supporting SB 570. The bill also allows waste used to produce renewable energy to count towards recycling in some counties, which is similar to language that the Sierra Club opposed in the House.

With time running out at the committee meeting Monday, two Tallahassee doctors and other biomass energy opponents argued that SB 570 would increase air pollution by encouraging biomass energy plants. “This is the first time I’ve heard anything about this in all the months and all the years we have been working on this bill,” an exasperated Constantine told the committee. The bill passed 3-0 and the next stop is the Senate floor.

Dr. Tom Termotto of Tallahassee said after the meeting that his group of opponents has fought proposed biomass plants in Tallahassee, Gretna and Port St. Joe and is concerned about the bill.

“Our whole thrust is we know what biomass incineration is all about,” Termotto said after the meeting. “It’s not green, it’s not sustainable, it’s not renewable, it’s not carbon neutral, it’s not environmentally-friendly and it’s not ecologically sound. This is how it’s being advertised by the … big players in the industry.”

(Story content provided by the Current, produced by The Florida Tribune. Story copyrighted by Bruce Ritchie and Do not copy or redistribute without permission.)