Michael J. Kernan was appointed to the Solid Waste Management Plan as a representative of CANA – the Council of Albany Neighborhoods. Below is an edited version of the comments he summited on the Steering Committee (SC) SWMP Preliminary Report*
Preliminary Report Conclusions (PR)
1. Public authority vs formal consortium
I disagree with the assumption that a “Regional Solid Waste Management Authority (RSWMA)…is critical to successful implementation of the SWMP.” There is no need for a “public authority” to gather the resources of the fourteen municipalities in the Planning Unit. This area has had a consortium for several years and the 14 municipalities have recently entered into a more formalized “Inter-municipal Agreement” (IMA) to hire and fund a Planning Unit Recycling Coordinator. This is a formal consortium supported by a written document binding, according to its terms, on the various municipalities. It should not be difficult, with the proper initiative, to expand the IMA to include other aspects of finding a solution to the solid waste problem. And there would be bureaucratic savings. The court cases presented to us do not require a public authority and do not bar the use of a consortium to achieve the goals.
There are disadvantages to another public authority. It will take years and expense to get legislative approval; it will be opposed by the citizens/taxpayers. Generally, public authorities have their directors appointed by the municipalities, no matter the lack of experience in matters of solid waste. In appointments, the public is generally ignored or allotted a minimum number; these also are appointed by the politicians. Rates are determined by a group which has no responsibility to its citizens. [We have seen that with the water authority here in Albany, whose minimum charge does not encourage water conservation; in fact the declining rates encourage excessive water use.] To create a new organization means an additional bureaucratic structure with departments in personnel, human resources, finance, budgeting, etc. NYS and this region have too many authorities and the NYS Comptroller periodically issues reports critical of the abuses inherent.
2. Alternative Emerging Technologies
CHA is due credit for bringing before the SC presentations by companies from North America and Europe who are involved with alternative technologies such as pyrolysis, gasification, biological/mechanical, anaerobic digestion and WTE. The SC had the opportunity to question the presenters. But the SC has not held discussion on the merits of each technology. CHA has shown its decisions in the PR and CHA’s analyses are contained in that elusive Appendix E. It is not sufficient to deny a technology on the basis that there are no American factories, while a technology has been proven in Europe for more than a decade. It is the duty of the SC to weigh the merits of each technology, with technical assistance from CHA and other experts, and consider whether each technology would be appropriate in our situation.
The Process Of The Steering Committee
1. Composition of the Steering Committee
At the first meeting of the SC in November 2008, 18 members were announced. In the PR there are 23 members listed. I do not recall any meeting in which new members were announced; I attended most of the meetings. Attendance by actual SC members diminished as the year progressed.
2. Resource Materials
At the first few monthly meetings, CHA prepared only enough copies of documents for members of SC and others who sat at the table in the front of the room. At the April 2009 meeting there was a motion to provide enough copies so that the public, who sat in seats to the rear of the room and who were there although not being paid by their employers, would have sufficient copies in order to follow complex discussions. [Only three SC members are not employed by municipalities, the industry or consultants.] It included a provision that the SC (not CHA) would decide what material would be distributed. This formal motion was not included in the Minutes following the meeting. There were many meetings in which there were an insufficient number of copies available to the public.
3. Incomplete Minutes
This problem of incomplete Minutes occurred again when a discussion on the creation of a “consortium” instead of a public authority was not transcribed. Until the October Meeting, a “consortium” was not discussed in detail. CHA promised to have the attorneys research the issue. It may be appropriate to make it a “formal written consortium”, using the IMA as a basis.
4. Appendices C-F
Appendices C-F are mentioned in the Table of Contents but not included. As the Appendices are part of the PR, they should be distributed to all SC members before SC members are asked their opinion.
5. Distribution of Preliminary Report
At each meeting of the SC, there were citizens sitting in the gallery who attended many of the meetings, some who were quite knowledgeable on the topic, some who asked very pertinent questions or who provided information to the group. Prior to issuance of a SWMP for formal review, these members of the public should be provided the PR in full.
6. Discussion of the Preliminary Report
The 12/15/09 email also states that the PR “has been compiled based on the many months of input and guidance that you have provided as part of the committee.” Rather, CHA prepared the PR and led and controlled the discussion throughout the year. The SC should discuss the PR among its members, having access to the viewpoints of other members of the SC.
I propose a Scenario #4 for the SC’s consideration, which may include the following:
• regional formal consortium; strict enforcement of existing recycling laws, with penalties; innovative approaches to recycling as shown in other regions; PAYT if a small first bag weekly is provided free by the municipality; product stewardship;
• consider a SSOW facility since food waste is 19% of MSW (didn’t the City of Albany collect food waste from residents as part of regular trash pickup in the 1960-70s); and further evaluation of emerging technologies, as opposed to a WTE plant.
I make these initial comments, understanding that discussion is needed, and request that my comments be forwarded directly to Steering Committee members.
Michael J Kernan, submitted to Steering Committee on January 24, 2010
Published in May/June Newsletter 2010