Garbage curveball - Page 2

Budget and Legislative Analyst complicates Recology's effort to expand its waste disposal monopoly in San Francisco

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"Therefore, it may be possible for a second firm, other than Recology, to transport refuse after it has been collected by Recology, if that second firm's transfer station was located either outside the city limits or was located near marine or rail facilities, such that refuse from the transfer station to the city's designated landfill could avoid being transported through the streets of the city and county of San Francisco," the BLA states.

"These are nuanced issues and they've evolved," Newman observed. "All we are doing is trying to help the board try and decide what to do on this matter. We are saying that the current approach is a policy matter for the board, and recommending that the board submit a proposal to the voters to amend the refuse collection and disposal ordinance."

The BLA report comes 15 months after the city tentatively awarded the new landfill disposal agreement to Recology to deposit up to 5 million tons of waste collected in San Francisco in Recology's landfill in Yuba County for 10 years. The award was based on score sheets from a three-member evaluation panel composed of City Administrator (now Mayor) Ed Lee, DoE Deputy Director David Assmann, and Oakland environmental services director Susan Katchee.

The trio scored competing proposals from Recology and Waste Management, and awarded Recology 254, and WM 240, out of a possible 300 points. Lee's scores in favor of Recology were disproportionately higher than other panelists, and the BLA notes that the largest differences in the scoring occurred around cost.

The BLA concluded that the city's proposed agreement with Recology was subject to the city's normal competitive process, "because the landfill disposal agreement is the sole portion of the refuse collection, transportation and disposal process which is subject to the City's normal competitive bidding process." And it found that because the transfer and collection of the city's refuse has never been subject to the city's normal bidding process, approval of the proposed resolution is a policy decision for the board.

But while DoE's Assmann has said that California cities must maintain a plan for 15 years of landfill disposal capacity, the BLA notes that such plans can include executed agreements and anticipated agreements. And WM officials confirm that Altamont has capacity for 30 to 40 years. This means the board need not rush its disposal decision.

The BLA report comes against a backdrop of intense lobbying around Recology's proposal. Records show that in 2010, Alex Clemens of Barbary Coast Consulting recorded $82,500 from Recology, and Chris Gruwell of Platinum Advisors recorded $70,000 from Waste Management to lobby around the city's landfill disposal contract.

And now both firms continue to press their case in face of the BLA report.

"Folks are trying to cloud the issue," Recology's consultant Adam Alberti, who works for Sam Singer Associates, said. He claims the BLA report concludes that Recology's proposed contract is the lowest cost to rate payers, saving an estimated $130 million over 10 years, that Recology's green rail option is the environmentally superior approach, and that the city's contract procurement process was open, thorough, and fair. "In short, the process works—and it works well," Alberti said. "The rate setting process is an important subject, and one the board should review, but the one before the board now is a fully vetted contract."

Alberti claimed that contrary to the conclusions of the BLA, which found commercial collection rates are significantly higher in San Francisco than Oakland, Recology's rates are cheaper than Oakland—once you factor in Recology's recycling discounts.

Waste Management's David Tucker said the BLA report "raises lots of good questions."