New site for SF waste will not require environmental impact report

Transporting 1,100 tons of waste collected from San Francisco residents an additional 2,000 miles daily will not have a significant impact on the environment.

That's according to the San Francisco Planning Commission, which unanimously voted Thursday that changing the disposal site for San Francisco's waste from the Altamont Landfill in Alameda County to the Recology Hay Road Landfill in unincorporated Solano County will not require an environmental impact report. The proposal calls for Recology to transport up to 5 million tons of waste to the Hay Road site under a contract that would expire in 13 to 15 years depending on how long it takes to reach 5 million tons.

The commission upheld the Planning Department's decision to prepare a negative declaration as required by the California Environmental Quality Act for projects not expected to result in significant environmental impacts.

In its preliminary negative declaration published March 4, the department studied potential traffic and air quality impacts for the new site and concluded the move would not pose a significant strain on the environment.

“The impacts of this project would be well below established air controls for significant impact,” said Paul Maltzer, a senior planner with the department. “When a project has no significant [environmental] impact, the negative declaration is the correct document.”

But Josh Levine, an attorney for the Solano County Orderly Growth Committee that in April appealed the Planning Department's decision, said the sheer amount of waste expected to be trucked to Solano County is troublesome.

“This project will increase the amount of [carbon dioxide] that's put in the atmosphere every year because you're taking an extra 40-mile roundtrip with each garbage truck every day, which is going to translate to 600,000 miles,” Levine said. “That is added to greenhouse emissions; that's got to be taken into account.”

Jack Macy, commercial zero waste coordinator for the San Francisco Department of the Environment, contended that less waste will actually be brought to the Solano County landfill in that time because Recology and The City are developing programs to recover significant trash components such as textiles and recyclables.

“We are confident that disposal will not increase over the course of this project,” Macy said.

The City's current contract with Waste Management, which operates the Altamont Landfill, will expire by 2016 based on the rate of disposal.

The City opted to switch to Recology's landfill after seeking bids for new sites in 2009. The Recology site will cost ratepayers about $13 million a year less than Waste Management's bid, said Eric Potashner, vice president and senior director of strategic affairs for Recology.

The agreement between San Francisco and Recology to change the disposal sites must still be approved by the Board of Supervisors. It is not expected to alter service for ratepayers.

Correction: The name of the commercial zero waste coordinator for the San Francisco Department of the Environment was incorrect in the original version of this story. That position is held by Jack Macy.

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