Yesterday afternoon, the Board of Supervisors held a public hearing on selling the Sonoma County solid waste system to Republic Services of Arizona.  The crowd of more then 100 filled the room and spilled out into the lobby, where folks listening to testimony over loudspeakers. Obviously this is an issue many people feel passionately about – and will continue to care about.

After more then 3 hours of respectful and very pertinent public testimony, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors unanimously directed staff to address a handful of important wording clarification issues and put the divestiture decision on the next meetings consent calendar.  Only Supervisor Shirlee Zane had serious issues with the sale terms and the recent process. I hope at the next meeting she will pull it off the consent calendar so that this important “public/private” discussion can continue.

Only one or two of the more than 20 speakers were in favor of selling the system to Republic Services for $1 and $2.73 million in annual royalties over the next 20 years. The deal may sound good until one reads the details and realizes that every year the residents and businesses of Sonoma County will be paying higher and higher fees to an Arizona firm with a poor environmental record –which recently sold Potrero Hills Landfill in Solano County to Folsom-based Waste Connections Inc. for $58.9 million!  We agree to $1 for our landfill without a value assessment and they get almost $60 million via a forced sale not the market price!

Speakers included representatives from county advisory boards, local environmental groups, county employees, residents, and other interested parties: Sonoma County Local Task Force for Solid Waste, Climate Protection Campaign, Sierra Club, League of Women Voters, Sonoma County Conservation Council, LITE Initiatives, Happy Acres Water System, Go Local, Northern California Recycling Association, SPRAWLDEF, former Congressman Doug Bosco, Windsor City Council person Debora Fudge and Healdsburg City Council person Mike McGuire, Steve Stegman and a few very eloquent homeowners who living near the landfill.

John Moore, lawyer for Industrial Carting/Global Recycling and Sonoma Compost’s lawyer requested that the purchase and sale agreement (PSA) language be in sync with current contracts, plans and regulations.  Mr. Moore also asked that the agreement not make it illegal for our smaller recycling businesses to operate.  The reps for landfill operators Waste Management, Inc.  and  Waste Connections basically said that the agreement currently being discussed is very different from what was solicited a few years ago and that County could get a much better financial deal if the contract was put out to bid now. Waste Connections offered continued use of Potrero Hills Landfill for $37.50 per ton less than Republic’s $101.50 per ton.

A number of the speakers referred to the 2007 Sonoma County Waste Characterization Study which reported that 70% of what was still being discarded is compostable and/or recyclable. I suggested to the supervisors that zero waste is within our reach and the long haul impacts of the remainder and other landfill issues should be looked at differently. The Bay Area leads the nation and perhaps the world in number of municipal zero waste goals and plans. Our neighbor to the south, Marin County, just set a zero waste by 2025 goal. If they can do it – we can too!

Once the Supervisors sign the agreement, each city council has 90 -180 days to discuss and decide if they are willing to sign-on to the sale and 20 years of flow control.

Please educate yourself on this matter, read the related entries and links listed below under Zero Waste, contact your supervisor and city councils asap.

LITE, with the assistance of the California Resource Recovery Association,, and the Northern California Recycling Association, is planning a zero waste and landfill issues workshop which will define and discuss issues like put and pay and flow control. Stay tuned.