City officials delay garbage contract decision while they seek more information
But Barry Skolnick, WM's vice president for Bay Area operations, told the Guardian that 2016 is a more realistic estimate of the landfill expiration date. "At the current disposal rate, we do not believe San Francisco will exhaust its disposal volumes under the existing Altamont landfill contract until 2016 at the earliest," Skolnick said. "There is plenty of time for the Board of Supervisors and LAFCO to explore best practices and options for its collection, recycling, composting, transferring, and residual waste disposal services."
Skolnick noted that WM discussed extending the Altamont contract at the Budget & Finance Committee hearing and the LAFCO hearing, and is proposing to extend the city's current contract by several years.
"We are preparing a proposed three-year extension of the disposal agreement for San Francisco's review this week," Skolnick said. "The extension would involve a price increase for disposal but less than the disposal rate offered under the proposed Recology rail haul to Ostrom Road in Yuba County. The three-year extension would provide disposal at the Altamont until 2019 or 2020."
But Assmann noted that Recology, which currently pays the port $1 million a year to lease Pier 96, wants to expand its Brisbane facility on Recology-owned land. "We have offered to analyze [the Brisbane expansion] option," Assmann said, estimating that a new transfer facility would cost $40 to $60 million, while a new integrated facility would cost $200 to $450 million.
"If the infrastructure moved to the port, that would have big positive implications for the port," Assmann said, acknowledging that the port would lose money if Recology relocates entirely to Brisbane. Plus, Brisbane might demand fees from a new facility, he noted. "But consolidation would save ratepayers money in the long run because the operation would become more efficient."
Unlike the LAFCO study, DoE won't have its report ready by April, when the city needs to decide on the landfill contract.
"Our proposal is to look at the bigger picture," Assmann said. "If the board approves Recology's landfill contract, we'll still go ahead and do it. The board can always delay its landfill decision. But this looks at infrastructure the landfill agreement won't impact."
DoE recommends working with Recology to implement a pilot program to barge recyclables from Pier 96 to the Port of Oakland as it studies long term infrastructure options including locating infrastructure at the port, Assmann said. DoE also recommends that the proposed plan to award Recology the landfill contract and facilitation agreement remain the same "since our analysis shows (and the port concurs) that all options for utilizing the port for any kind of landfill transportation would require a permitting process that would last a minimum of five years and a total timeline of at least seven to nine years."
So far, the landfill contract has not come before the full board because of delays and continuations at the Budget & Finance Committee. As Judson True, legislative aide to Board President David Chiu, recently observed, the process over the last few months has raised more questions than answers, including unexpected angles such as how the port can be better utilized and the implications of the 1932 refuse collection and disposal ordinance. "We need to get these answers before we can move forward," True said. "We all have a lot of work to do before we can figure out what's best for the city and pick a path."