Friday, November 17, 2017

A look at electric horizontal grinders

By Ken McEntee

This look at electric horizontal grinders, courtesy of Composting News, is not intended to endorse or promote any particular product or manufacturer. Attempts were made to include input from all known North American manufacturers of horizontal grinders.

Increasing government regulations – particularly federal emission standards – and a lower operating cost compared to diesel powered machines, are driving demand for electric horizontal grinders, manufacturers say.

We are definitely seeing an increase in the popularity in electric machines, and most of that is driven by cost of operation and cost of ownership,” said Jay Van Roekel, strategic business unit manager at Vermeer Corp., of Pella, Iowa.

Jason Morey, sales and marketing manager for Bandit Industries Inc., Remus, Mich., said he has seen a consistent demand for electric grinders in recent years.

“There hasn’t necessarily been a large increase, but that may change a little with this being the last year that we can do Tier 2 diesel engines above 750 horsepower,” Morey said. “Once the Tier 4 final rules go into effect, I think electric is an option that more people are going to consider.”

Machines that are not Tier 4 Final must be in production by December 31 in order to be sold in the U.S.

Anything relating to biomass is going electric pretty much,” said Tim Griffing, sales manager, stationary line, for Continental Biomass Industries (CBI), of Newton, N.H. “With emissions regulations changing, if you don’t have to move the grinder, electric is the direction that everybody is aiming at. In my business it is increasing 5 to 10 percent a year.”

Manufacturers say electric horizontal grinders provide myriad benefits in stationary applications, but most see no potential for making the machines mobile for off-site work using portable generators in the near future. Hauling an electric generator that can power a grinder, they say, defeats the purpose of eliminating a diesel engine on the machine.

Electric grinding equipment, according to Art de St. Aubin, president and CEO of Rotochopper Inc., of St, Martin, Minn., is one of the most dramatic and under-utilized means of minimizing costs of mulch production.

Electric grinders have many advantages over diesel grinders, some of them obvious – such as cost of electricity vs. diesel fuel and some of them subtle and more complex – such as uptime vs. downtime,” de St. Aubin said. “Costs for operating and electric grinder for 2,000 hours in a year can be as much as $50,000 less than operating a diesel processing the same product due to less expensive energy costs and lower maintenance costs.”

According to Paul Clark, electric systems engineer at Peterson Pacific Corp., Eugene, Ore., the relative consistent cost of electricity, compared to fluctuating diesel fuel prices, is a main reason why operators consider electric grinders.

In some cases overseas, where diesel costs are really high, they will only consider electric,” Clark said.

Grinder manufacturers generally agree that an electric horizontal is likely to provide a lower production cost per ton than a diesel powered machine if you process material in a fixed location and have access to a three-phase power supply.

It’s important for people to know that this technology has existed for some time,” said Pat Crawford, vice president of products at Diamond Z Manufacturing, Caldwell, Idaho. “It’s not some mysterious application. We did our first electric tub grinder back in 1990. It has been around and proven for a long time.”

Either electric or diesel grinders and shredders will do the same job on the material, said Todd Dunderdale, senior area sales manager for Komptech Americas, Westminster, Colo.

The real question is customer requirements, such as space, permit needs or energy costs,” Dunderdale said. “Typically if a customer plans on running inside a building they go with an electric unit. For customers who desire to be mobile, then a track diesel unit is the best.”

Following is a look at what manufacturers of horizontal grinders for organic materials processing are saying about the electric option.

Ideal for stationary operation

Tim Wenger, vice president of CW Mill Equipment Co., Sabetha, Kan., said electric grinders are ideal for stationery grinding operations.

Municipal operations, for example, are typically more centrally located in that wood waste is dropped off at a certain location,” Wenger said. “An electric machine is a big pro in that aspect.”

If your work requires you to move the grinder to the product, a diesel is the correct choice,” said de St. Aubin. “Electrics are often chosen for facilities that wish to place a grinder in line with a conveyor that handles wood waste. You will often see them at the end of sorting lines in construction and demolition waste applications or in consumer waste applications. They are popular for processing green waste for compost, pallets for mulch, waste wood for animal bedding, among many other uses.”

Electric powered grinders, Van Roekel said, “will do all the same things that our diesel powered machines will do. It is basically the same machine. It is used for pre-processing and product sizing, it can be initial grind or a regrind or even a final grind. They can be inside or outside, at a plant or a regional yard where material like green waste comes in. We see electrics used for more of a 24/7 type of an operation where they are working the same job and the same material day after day as opposed to a diesel that is going to go to a site for four to five hours for a day or two and then move to the next site.”

Originally, Van Roekel said, the market for electric machines was driven by efficiency of operation compared to diesel engines.

Over time, we’re seeing regulations pushing more people toward electric power,” he said.

Operating a stationery electric grinder offers convenience and efficiency of maintenance, said John Snodgrass, who is in technical sales at West Salem Machinery, Salem, Ore.

“All of your parts and tools are centralized on site,” Snodgrass said. “That’s one of the big advantages of having the stationery horizontal grinder.”

According to Morey, “If you don’t need to move around, electric makes a lot of sense as long as you have the infrastructure to support it. Bandit is known for making mobile equipment, but out horizontal grinders can be put into a stationery electric application at any time.”

Cost savings

Even at today’s diesel prices, an electric machine can be about $30 an hour cheaper to run,” said Clark, citing in part a recent analysis done by one of Peterson’s customers. “You have to take into account that there is an initial up-front capital cost because you’re adding more controllers and you may have to get more power capacity installed to your site. At today’s lower diesel prices, the electric machines will, in a reasonable time, break even, then you will start to see a gain in payback.”

Clark said the additional up-front costs to power a new site could range between $150,000 and $200,000, including costs from the local power utility and an electrical contractor.

If you already have power, it’s relatively inexpensive,” Clark said.

Van Roekel said depending on hours of operation and maintenance practices, the operating costs of an electric grinder can be about half the costs of running a diesel machine.

The machines themselves are comparably priced,” he said. “The extra costs come with your drive panel that controls the electric power to the motor. It could be a soft start panel or a variable frequency drive (VFD) panel with which the motor acts more like a diesel engine. Then you have the electric power lines that go to the grinder and the panel, so those are the additional install costs, but that it is soon made up for in the lower operating costs.”

Electric grinders offer cost savings associated with routine maintenance as well, de St. Aubin said.

Besides savings on diesel fuel, electric grinders eliminate the costs and downtime associated with maintaining a diesel engine, radiator and clutch, including oil and filter replacement, coolant exchange, air filter replacement and clutch fluid and filter replacement where applicable,” he said.

Wenger agreed.

The nice thing about an electric motor is not having to maintain the diesel engine,” he said. “You don’t have gas tanks and turbos and air filters and radiators and head gaskets. That’s one of the biggest reasons most of our customers have gone electric initially, and then years ago we had the fluctuating diesel prices.”

According to Snodgrass, the absence of road hauling equipment also reduces the cost of an electric machine.

“You need to have the brakes, the chassis and all of that other stuff to move a mobile unit,” he said. “You don’t have that on a grinder that is staying in one place.”

“As long as the (electrical) power is at a decent rate, then the electric machines are definitely cheaper to run,” Morey said. “You’re eliminating filters and diesel fuel and you’re going to have all the Tier Four emission components on these (diesel) engines, so there is going to be an even greater savings when it comes to the Tier Four compared to electric.”

Kollin Moore, electrical engineer with Morbark LLC, Winn, Mich., cautions, however, that the resale market for electric horizontals could be a limited compared to diesel machines.

Another disadvantages of an electric machine, Dunderdale said, is the need to have a mechanic who is proficient on electrics, “which is often hard to find.”

Longer life

Far and away the biggest difference between diesel customers and electric customers is the quantity of hours that they put on the machine in a year,” Van Roekel said. “The electric powered machines run way more hours than diesel powered machines. It comes down to maintenance, but electric motor will last longer. We see an excess of 30,000 hours on many electric machines. We don’t assume that diesel will go more than 10,000 hours.”

de St. Aubin agreed.

Besides reduced routine maintenance and downtime, electric grinders offer considerable savings on long-term maintenance and operation,” he said. “Electric motors also tend to have a longer life span. Electrics provide constant dependable performance with reliable uptime. They are extremely reliable machines with some still in service with more than 30,000 hours on them.”

Moore said electric motors typically last up to two or three times longer than diesel engines.

“If somebody has had a diesel machine for years and then they go electric one of the things they radically notice is that there are no longer any oil changes to do, you don’t have to change filters,” Clark said. “There is a lot of mechanical maintenance involved with diesel. With electric, once you get them set up right, you’re not touching those motors for maintenance for 10,000 to 15,000 hours depending on how much you’re grinding, so there is a tremendous reduction in overall maintenance cost when you go with an electric machine. I think the life span of an electric machine is longer, as the diesel has clutches and things that wear out pretty quick. With the electric machine, belts and consumables will wear out, but the drive train itself is fairly robust and maintenance free.”

Better performance?

Moore cited the following advantages of an electric horizontal grinder compared to a diesel powered machine: Cleaner, more efficient power source with no emission regulations to meet, quieter operation, less maintenance, less expensive to operate, lower capital cost and less chance of catastrophic fire.

A more consistent end product is the result of the more consistent RPMs the unit runs at,” Moore said. “Diesel powered machines have a bigger variance in engine RPMs.”

Comparing the relative grinding power of comparably sized diesel and electric motors is one area where some manufacturers disagree. Most sources interviewed suggested that electric motors can provide more power directly to the rotor than a comparably sized diesel. Pat Crawford, vice president of products for Diamond Z, Caldwell, Idaho, disagreed.

I disagree 110 percent,” he said. “Electric grinders do not perform exactly the same way as combustion engines with the horsepower and torque curves. A lot of people think that if you run a 1,000 horsepower diesel you can get away with 700 horsepower electric, but we go the other way. The reason is the fixed RPM with an electric motor. If you run a variable frequency drive (VFD), that would help the situation a little bit, but you still wouldn’t have the range of RPM utilization that you would have on diesel.”

Clark, however, said electric motors can deliver more power than their diesel counterparts.

In some applications we can provide more grinding power with electric motors compared to our largest diesel motors,” Clark said. “An electric motor puts more direct horsepower on the rotor instead of losing efficiency through the clutch. Sometimes you need that extra power directed directly to the rotor. The other piece of it depends on the type of motor controller you have. You can, for short bursts of time, can deliver up to another 50 percent of the power of that motor. For example, you can turn a 600 horsepower electric motor into a 900 horsepower motor for short bursts of time if the rotor demands it without compromising the integrity of the motor.”

Morey agreed.

“With electric you can run a lower horsepower and get high horsepower capabilities,” he said. “In our experience it’s almost two to one from the feedback we get.”

According to Snodgrass, “With a 1,000 horsepower diesel, that is not 1,000 horsepower available to grind with compared to an electric where you get the full 1.000 horsepower.”

Griffing said electric grinders offer a better torque curve than diesel powered machines.

“I would say comparing a 600 horsepower CAT diesel engine with a 600 horse electric motor, the electric will increase your power at the rotor by a minimum of 25 percent,” Griffing said.

Dunderdale said the available grinding power is the most important question to consider.

“Buyers should be aware that an electric high speed grinder requires the same amount of horsepower that its diesel counterpart has,” Dunderdale said. “Typically a 1,000 horsepower grinder needs a 1,000 horsepower electric motor to run it since it is direct drive. However for our Crambo, for example, the 500 horsepower mobile unit is only 240 horsepower in the electric version because you don’t have the loss of power as you do with the diesel to run the hydraulics. There is far less electrical consumption from a 250 horssepower motor than from a 1,000 horsepower. Also when considering a 1,000 HP electric grinder, you must also have to purchase expensive soft starts in order to not overload the power supplier. This can be very expensive.”

Beefier machine

Engine comparisons aside, Griffing said because stationary electric grinders aren’t governed by Department of Transportation specifications like mobile units, the machines can be configured to meet the needs of an operation. That means they can have larger hoppers and longer discharge conveyors.

Wenger echoed that.

Because they aren’t restricted by road hauling regulations, stationary grinders can be built to larger capacities,” he said. “When you install a 150,000 pound machine it’s going to last forever. When you take away the transportation aspects, it frees you up to build a grinder for more strength instead of transportation.”

Snodgrass agreed.

“Grinders that are going over the road have some limits on things like width and weight,” he said. “If you don’t have to take your grinder on the road, a stationery machine can be much wider with a larger diameter rotor. You can get into tremendous capacities,”

Operating requirements

Electric driven grinders can be used anywhere there is enough power to drve them,” Griffing said.

Manufacturers generally said minimum requirements generally include three-phase power with a minimum of 460-480 volts at 60 hertz. Having adequate electrical power at the installation site is important, and not always simple to achieve, some manufacturers noted.

A lot of people assume that because they have a lot of power or voltage coming to their facility that they are set,” Crawford said. “But they may already be using most of their capacity. You can have three phase, 480-volt power available, but you also need to have sufficient amperage. Everybody has the voltage, but not everybody has the amperage.”

Required amperage, Crawford said depends in the horsepower of the motor.

Lower horsepower machines don’t need that much amperage,” Crawford said. “But you have to consider that in-rush – what it takes to start the motor - can be eight times what it takes to operate the motor.”

Power to electric grinder motors is controlled using one of two types of controller: a soft starter or a variable frequency drive (VDF). A soft starter helps to protect a motor

With soft start panels you tend to lose a little bit of power, but they are less expensive,” Van Roekel said. “If you’re regrinding it really doesn’t require the full horsepower anyway. It depends on the application. So soft-start is good for some jobs. If you’re doing more taxing work, you may want to look at the VFD panel. The VFD panel is something we believe is the secret to good productivity.”

Clark said Peterson’s machines required between 1,000 and 2,500 amps depending on the size the motor.

If you’re going to use an electric machine, you need to be sure that you have a power supply that can handle it,” Morey said. “If you don’t have a big enough power supply then there is going to be a problem running the machine.”

Wenger said power drops can damage motors.

Most problems we’ve had with the electric tubs, particularly on starting, have been from power drops, especially in the summertime,” he said. “People generally say 460 volts is the requirement, but sometimes the voltage in that system can fall to 440. When voltage drops, amperage goes up and that can trip out the power. I tell people to have the utility top the power up into the 505-volt range to protect against drops in voltage, and that usually takes care of the problem. It’s not a big deal – they just adjust it at the transformer.”

Clark said Peterson recently had a customer who was experiencing low voltage.

It looks like the power company didn’t plan fully for situation,” he said. “It causes the motors to work a little harder and they get hotter. The way you handle that is to work directly with your electric utility company and tell them what you are planning to do so they can plan accordingly.”

Michael Spreadbury, Peterson’s marketing manager, added, “That is a conversation you need to have very early on the purchasing process. You need to get the utility involved and you need to talk to your local electrical contractor.”

Having access to sufficient power, Spreadbury said, is not always a given.

If the infrastructure isn’t there it isn’t going to happen,” he said. “A customer in the Midwest would die to have electric. But the power company just will not put in the infrastructure.”

According to Griffing, “One downfall of the electric driven grinders is having enough power available to your site. Not all sites are close enough for the amperage required to operate large horsepower motors.”

Wenger agreed.

Location and proximity to power is a consideration,” he said. “Some of these mulching operations can be in remote locations, so the ability to get adequate power can be a hindrance. It might cost a couple hundred thousand dollars to get lines run to you if you are a distance away.”

Market trends
“The shredder/grinder market has grown over the last couple of years and is forecasted to continue to grow,” Dunderdale said. “We have seen an increase in the number of stationary machines typically because larger facilities are now being planned because of industry consolidation.”
Tightened regulations in engine air emissions will increase the cost of diesel machines, making electric motors more attractive for the appropriate applications, manufacturers agree.
“Due to emissions standards becoming more strict, electric drive is becoming more popular,” Griffing said.
“The increased costs for Tier 4 diesel powered machines will be substantial,” Crawford said. “I think you’ll see machines that are not Tier 4 Final on the market through the first quarter to the first half of next year, but we’re already seeing a pickup in demand for electrics.”

Peterson also expects stronger interest in electric machines.

With onset of Tier 4 and the significant price increases that it is going to entail, we are going to see more and more applications where, of the machine does not have to move, we’re going to be quoting more electric machines,” Spreadbury said.

Wenger said sales and inquiries for electric grinders increased a few years ago when diesel prices bumped upward.

Now, with the changes in the emissions regulations, people are taking a closer look at electric power,” he said. “We make a lot of electric tub grinders, but any of our diesel horizontals can be made with an electric engine.”

According to Moore, Morbark has seen the demand for electric grinders slowly increasing, especially during times when the price of oil has been elevated.

“Regulatory influences, whether they are about emissions, dust or noise, are definitely switching people over to the electrics,” Van Roekel said. “The bulk of Vermeer’s horizontal grinder sales are diesel powered, but electric machines have been reducing the gap over the past five years.”

Making it mobile?

New technology has made many electric products more mobile. Horizontal grinders are unlikely to be one of them, manufacturers agree.

To make an electric machine mobile you would need a pretty big diesel generator, which isn’t cheap,” Van Roekel said. “You’re kind of defeating the purpose if you’re running a 1,000 horsepower generator and then you have to move the panel with it to control the motors. You’re still going to have the noise and air emissions from the generator.”

That, Wenger said, is one of the few downsides of an electric grinder.

They are not mobile at all,” he said. “You would need a 2,000 horsepower generator to power up a 1,000 horsepower grinder. You’re better off just getting a 1,000 horsepower diesel engine. I had a customer who wanted to take an electric grinder from town to town to town to do custom grinding and he pitched the towns to provide the electricity. That would have necessitated each town to set transformers of adequate size to power the machines. It wasn’t going to happen. The economics just aren’t there.”

De St. Aubin said that portable configurations using quick-connects are available, but power availability is essential.

The site must have adequate three phase power available,” he said.

Griffing said quick-connects at adequately powered sites allows an operator to move an electric to two or three different locations.

It works great, but you need to have soft starts at each of the facilities,” he said.

Wenger added that one customer has two locations powered up on his site so he can move an electric tub grinder back and forth.

Snodgrass noted a similar situation.

“I have seen yards where they have a semi portable situation,” he said. “They will have a crude pad and the ability to get power to it so they can process X amount of tons and when they are finished they can pack it up. The control panel is a part of the unit, so they can pack it up and move it to another part of the yard. It isn’t something that you would run for a week – you probably would run it for a year at a site. But generally, if you are dragging a generator around you are defeating the purpose.

Converting to electric

Wenger said converting an existing diesel powered horizontal grinder to electric is simple.

We are quoting a project like that now,” he said. “I customer in California has a diesel grinder and they were not able to get an air quality permit. Our quote is pull off the 1,000 horsepower diesel engine and put on a 500 horsepower electric. It is a pretty simple conversion. It’s not a bad things to do. When a diesel engine goes bad, instead of a new $60,000 diesel engine you can put the money toward a conversion. It is probably going to cost you $100,000 by the time you buy the motors and starters. But you’re going to make that up in lower operating costs.”

Griffing said diesel-to-electric conversions are becoming increasingly popular.

We’re seeing more and more of it now, especially in California with the regulations getting stricter,” he said. “If you’re not going to be moving it you might as well convert it. To buy a new diesel engine or have one rebuilt, they’re about the same price to convert, so you’re better off going with the electric.”

What to consider

Before making the decision to install a horizontal grinder, you need to know your local codes, Van Roekel said.

There will be some safety regulations,” he said. “If you are under a roof there will be some kind of rules to prevent an explosion or a fire problem. It is high voltage, so you need to lock-out-tag-out and other proper safety and maintenance practices. Don’t try to eliminate maintenance schedules. A 24/7 operation is not going to want to turn it off very often, but you still need to clean the machine and check the cutters and screens.”

Moore noted that local laws may have restrictions relative to operating hours and start up times.

Before purchasing an electric grinder, Wenger said, be sure to do your homework.
“Talk extensively with everyone involved, be it the contractor who is pouring the concrete where the electric machine is going to set or the local electric company,” he said. “Are there certain times that the grinder should not operate as to not interfere with electric power elsewhere else, and make sure all of the people involved in the preparation for the grinder are in contact. Communication is key.”

Monday, December 12, 2016

EPA nominee would rein in agency
Republished from Composting News, December 2016

By Ken McEntee
December 7, 2016
Many critics of the U.S. EPA have charged that the agency is “out of control,” with 
overzealous regulations. Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt is one of them, and starting next year, pending congressional approval, Pruitt will be in charge of the agency.
President-elect Donald J. Trump this month announced his intention to nominate Pruitt to serve as the administrator of the EPA.
“The American people are tired of seeing billions of dollars drained from our economy due to unnecessary EPA regulations, and I intend to run this agency in a way that fosters both responsible protection of the environment and freedom for American businesses,” Pruitt said.
Trump said Pruitt, who he called an expert in constitutional law and one of the country’s top attorneys general, brings a deep understanding of the impact of regulations on both the environment and the economy making him an excellent choice to lead the EPA.
“My administration strongly believes in environmental protection, and Scott Pruitt will be a powerful advocate for that mission while promoting jobs, safety and opportunity,” Trump said. “For too long, the Environmental Protection Agency has spent taxpayer dollars on an out-of-control anti-energy agenda that has destroyed millions of jobs, while also undermining our incredible farmers and many other businesses and industries at every turn. As my EPA administrator, Pruitt will reverse this trend and restore the EPA’s essential mission of keeping our air and our water clean and safe.”

Trump said Pruitt will be deeply involved in the implementation of his energy plan, “which will move America toward energy independence, create millions of new jobs and protect clean air and water.”
He said he and Pruitt agree that the new administration must rescind all job-destroying executive actions and eliminate all barriers to responsible energy production. This will create at least a half million jobs each year and produce $30 billion in higher wages, Trump said.
As new EPA regulations on clean water and air during the Obama administration have drawn fire from farmers, businesses, state officials and others around the country, Pruitt has been at the forefront of the opposition. He established Oklahoma’s first “federalism unit” to combat unwarranted regulation and overreach by the federal government and has said that states should have the sovereignty to make many regulatory decisions for their own markets.
In September Pruitt participated in oral arguments in federal appeals court in West Virginia v. EPA, in which West Virginia and other states filed suit to stay the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan. The Obama administration said the aim of the plan is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“This has been a historic and consequential day as 27 states joined together to ensure the precious balance of power is preserved,” Pruitt said during a press conference after the oral arguments. “This administration continues to treat states as mere vessels of federal will, abusing and disrespecting the vertical separation of powers defined by our Constitution. That is why attorneys general, senators and congressmen from across the country have joined together today to maintain rule of law and checks and balances in this very process. I am committed to ensuring the ultimate payer in this matter is not overlooked – the consumers.”
Last year, Oklahoma passed a law that protects the state from unlawful EPA overreach.
“The EPA’s so-called ‘lean Power Plan is the federal government placing the proverbial gun to the head of the state of Oklahoma to make the state bow to the pressure of an unlawful EPA rule,” Pruitt said at the time. “Senate Bill 676 is a bulwark against the overreach of the EPA. This is an important step to the state of Oklahoma’s ability to defend its interests against the unlawful actions of the EPA. No state should be forced to comply with this unlawful rule, and SB 676 is a common-sense approach that ensures decisions about Oklahoma’s power generation are made by state officials and not bureaucrats in Washington.”
In June 2015, in Michigan vs. EPA – a case in which the state of Oklahoma also was a plaintiff - the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the EPA unreasonably interpreted the Clean Air Act when it decided to set limits on the emissions of mercury and other pollutants from power plants without first considering the costs to utilities and others before doing so.
“Thanks to our victory, the EPA can no longer ignore the substantial costs its rulemaking can heap on industry, and eventually ratepayers,” Pruitt said. “The EPA routinely ignores statutes and congressional directive in order to pick winners and losers in the energy arena.”
Also in 2015, Pruitt was among the state officials who filed lawsuits against EPA over the agency’s Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, implemented under the federal Clean Water Act.
“I and many other local, state and national leaders across the country made clear to the EPA our concerns and opposition to redefining the Waters of the U.S.,” he said. “However, the EPA’s brazen effort to stifle private property rights has left Oklahoma with few options to deter the harm that its rule will do.”
Pruitt called WOTUS an “egregious power grab by the EPA and an attempt to reach beyond the scope granted to it by Congress. This rule renders the smallest of streams and farm ponds subject to EPA jurisdiction. This means that the first stop for property owners is the EPA, which may deem the property owners’ waters subject to the EPA’s unpredictable and costly regulatory regime. It would be a terrible blow to the private property rights of Americans.”
WOTUS is now in limbo and virtually certain to be rescinded under the Trump administration.
Speaking to Composting News last month (See Composting News, November 2016), Robert LaGasse, executive director of the Mulch and Soil Council, a trade association that represents soil and mulch producers, said he hopes the Trump administration will “take a stronger look at EPA and correct some of the errors that it has made recently.”
That includes WOTUS, which LaGasse has said “presents a big problem for anybody who wants to make changes to their property.”
Jay Lehr, science director for the Heartland Institute, a Chicago-based research organization, and one of the architects of the EPA who has since become a critic of the agency, praised Trump’s nomination.
“This is a great day for the environment, the American people and the economy – which will soon no longer be crippled by totally insane regulations, including the idea that humans exhale a pollutant with their every breath,” said Lehr, who has proposed the elimination of the EPA in favor of putting environmental protection under the control of state agencies. “There would be many people on my list for great EPA administrators but none would be any higher on it than Scott Pruitt. We have not had a knowledgeable individual at the helm of EPA for more years than I am willing to say. For well over a decade, we have had a combination of incompetence and anti-capitalists at the helm who knew nothing of environmental science and more importantly they did not care. As long as they could place road blocks in the way of progress with no validity whatsoever as to improved environmental protection, they felt they were doing their job.”
Fellow Oklahoman and U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, chairman of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) committee, also praised Pruitt as a “leader and a partner on environmental issues for many years.”
“Pruitt has fought back against unconstitutional and overzealous environmental regulations like Waters of the U.S. and the Clean Power Plan,” Inhofe said. “He has proven that being a good steward of the environment does not mean burdening tax payers and businesses with red tape. In his appearances before the Environment and Public Works committee, Pruitt has demonstrated that he is an expert on environmental laws and a champion of states’ roles in implementing those laws.”
Across the aisle, Pruitt’s nomination wasn’t greeted as enthusiastically.
“I cannot support Scott Pruitt, a denier of climate science, to lead the EPA,” said U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii). “Climate change is real, urgent and caused by humans. It is a scientifically proven fact that any EPA administrator should accept. The EPA has the enormous responsibility of protecting our environment and keeping Americans safe and healthy. Its administrator should share those goals, but Scott Pruitt’s record has shown us that he does not.  While the EPA is tasked with protecting our people and our environment from the impacts of climate change, he denies the science behind it.  And while the agency has worked to keep our air and water clean and safe, Scott Pruitt has worked to undermine the very rules that protect those resources. The health of our planet and our people is too important to leave in the hands of someone who does not believe in scientific facts or the basic mission of the EPA.”
According to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), “For the sake of the air we breathe, the water we drink and the planet we will leave our children, the head of the EPA cannot be a stenographer for the lobbyists of polluters and big oil. Pruitt has brazenly used his office as a vehicle for the agenda of big polluters and climate deniers in the courts – and he could do immense damage as the Administrator of the EPA.”
Speaking to Composting News last month, Lehr opined that despite Trump’s open skepticism about global warming, he doesn’t anticipate a sudden reversal in Washington policy regarding climate change.
“So far I haven’t read a single word that makes me believe we are going to back up at all on climate change,” he said. “There is no question that Trump feels that it is a hoax, and it is the biggest hoax ever perpetrated on society, and I think he will stick with that. But I think it will take some time to slowly wind it down reasonably. Over a period of time, the more than $5 billion a year of research money that goes to support the climate models at the academic levels will dry up.”

Friday, November 25, 2016

Composting human remains: May God rest your soil

By Ken McEntee, Owner

Republished from Composting News

Thirteen years ago, Composting News republished Pushing Up Daisies, compost pioneer Malcolm Beck’s essay about human body composting.
“In nature, all plants and animal bodies are disassembled, consumed, and returned to the

Earth by the decomposing microbes, which maintains soil fertility,” Beck wrote. “Wouldn't this also be a more respectful way to handle our deceased?”
Now, the Seattle-based Urban Death Project, is developing a new model of death care that it says “honors both our loved ones and the planet earth.” At the heart of this model is a composting system – called recomposition - that transforms human remains into soil.
“It occurred to me that I didn’t want the last thing I did on this planet to be polluting,” said Katrina Spade, founder and executive director of the project.
Spade has never heard of Beck, the founder and former owner of Garden-ville, a San Antonio-based compost producer. But she shares his view that traditional methods of cremation and burial are undesirable to the body and to the environment.
“The funeral industry gouges families,” she said. “They have to make them feel like they need a fancy coffin so they can make money. It is horrible.”
The Urban Death Project is working with Washington State University to develop a prototype composting facility using animal carcasses
“As far as I know we are the first to do a project like this,” Spade said.
Spade’s interest in composting human remains developed while she was in graduate school for architecture.
“I had an interest in decomposition that goes beyond the average architecture student,” she said. “I grew up in New Hampshire and we always raised and composted our own animals, so I developed a good knowledge of composing and permaculture design.”
She also became interested in the funeral industry.
“Today’s funerals don’t support the grieving as well as they could, and I also found out through research that cremation and convention burial pollute and are wasteful in different ways. We need to create new spaces in our cities where we can do death better, and incorporating the technology of livestock composting made sense.”
In the recomposition process, the deceased body would be lowered down into a tall composting bay with a small footprint, where it would be composted with a bulking agent like wood chips. Aeration would be provided by ports in the side of the structure.
“It’s based on livestock composting principles, but we actually invented our own process,” Spade said. “We took the aerated windrow concept and turned it on its side so that it is vertically designed. The reason it is vertical is because it is meant to be for the city, so we need to minimize land use, so the obvious thing to do is to go up. The system we designed is vertically stacked, which I don’t think has ever been done before because there really hasn’t been a need for it. Most composting is done in rural spaces, where there is land.”
Gradually, the body move downward through the bay as it decomposed. The end product would be about a yard of compost, including the composted bulking materials.
“We think the process will take four to six weeks, but we really don’t know until we build the prototype,” she said. “This is not like cremation where you give the ashes of the body to the family. This is a corrective system in the end. The bodies are put in and composted individually, but when we get to the second stage there will be a mixing and curing and finishing of the compost, because at that point we are no longer human. Families will be encouraged to take some of that compost, but it won’t just be from a single body at that point.”
Spade expects that about six bodies could be moving down through the bay at the same time, each of which would be in a different stage of decomposition. The bays would be modularly designed, so a site could have one or more.
Last winter, Spade and Lynne Carpenter-Boggs, a soil scientist at Washington State worked with Western Carolina University to determine the most efficient way of composting human bodies. Donated bodies were placed in beds of wood chips, To vary the conditions, alfalfa pellets and water were later added to one of the bodies.
Human composting, Spade said is not legal in any state in the U.S.
“Our legal team thinks that if we really want to we could probably do it now in Colorado,” she said. “How we care for deceased bodies is a state by state decision. Most states are the same generally, with three options: bury, cremate or donate to science. In Washington we are working on a strategy to bring it to the legislature to offer another option for consumers.”
The Urban Death Project, a non-profit organization is now seeking donations toward building a prototype. The current fundraising campaign seeks $20,000 by the end of November. The overall cost of the prototype is expected to be around $75,000, with a final project cost of around $300,000.
“Once we make money we can start to involve Washington State,” she said. “Once we have a prototype, which will only take a couple months to build, we can run a pilot program. We have to have a successful pilot program before we can take it to the legislature. Hopefully we can take this to the legislature within a year and a half to two years.”
Spade said she took her idea to Carpenter-Boggs after learning of Washington State’s work in composting livestock moralities.
“We will start by insuring that the system works by using some human sized animals, then maybe we will find some human donors,” she said. “We’re already getting inquiries about this.”
Ultimately, she said, the process would include on-site memorial services.
“By composting the body, the laws of nature are not violated and the cycles of life will be completed,” Beck wrote.
Through the end of November, donations to the project can be made at

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

WOTUS, EPA could be casualties of Trump administration

By Ken McEntee, Owner

Republished from Composting News, November, 2016.

The court-halted Clean Water Rule defining the “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS), and even the U.S. EPA itself could come to an end under the administration of President-Elect Donald Trump, according to experts who keep a close eye on environmental regulations.
In the wake of Trump’s election, Composting News asked several experts about what they think the next four years have in store for WOTUS and environmental regulations in general. They included:
* Jay Lehr, one of the architects of the EPA who has since become a critic of the agency. Lehr, science director for the Heartland Institute, a Chicago-based research organization, published a proposal two years ago to eliminate the federal EPA and secure environmental protection under the control of state agencies. Lehr said he is confident that at least portions of his plan will be adopted under the Trump administration.
* H. Reed Hopper, principal attorney with the Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF), the Sacramento, Calif.-based public interest legal organization that has represented plaintiffs in property rights, civil rights and other cases against governments, including a lawsuit opposing WOTUS. Hopper said he expects WOTUS to be overturned, but doesn’t expect EPA to be eliminated or substantially reduced in scope.
* Robert LaGasse, executive director of the Mulch and Soil Council, a trade association that represents soil and mulch producers. LaGasse said he is optimistic that Trump’s planned infrastructure improvements will make transportation more efficient, and that an improved economy will boost demand for soil and mulch products.
* Frank Franciosi, executive director of the U.S. Composting Council, the trade association that represents compost producers.
Lehr, who was the nation’s first Ph.D. in groundwater hydrology and was among the first advocates for the creation of the EPA almost 50 years ago, said he is confident that the agency will be dismantled under the Trump administration. His plan calls for a gradual dismantling of EPA over a five-year period.
“People are emailing me all over the place,” he said. “They think it can be done.”
Lehr believes that state control over environmental regulations will be improve the environment.
“100 percent of the work of the nation’s environmental protection is done by the 50 state agencies,” Lehr said. “The federal government does nothing. The EPA has 10,000 useless employees, and all they do is look over the shoulders of the 50 states that do all of the work. Anybody in any business knows that you don’t do your best work when you know some idiot is looking over your shoulder. The only time in recent memory that EPA actually got involved and got their hands dirty on the ground is when they sent several people to deal with a situation at a mining operation in Colorado (Gold King Mine, August 2015). They screwed it up and they contaminated the Animas River. EPA’s response was ‘we’re sorry.’ Anybody else would have been in jail.”
Lehr said he would retain EPA’s Office of Research and Development and reduce the agency’s budget from $8.2 billion to $2 billion.
“In two years since I introduced it, there hasn’t been a single person who has challenged me with regard to the logic of the plan,” Lehr said. “The EPA is made up of 14 separate offices, most of which are administrative. Only four of them actually deal directly with the environment. The Office of Research and Development is the only thing I would leave in the budget.”
Lehr believes WOTUS is dead on arrival of the new administration.
“The plan was to take over every drop of water in the United States,” he said. “Literally if there is a puddle on your farm and a bird lands in the puddle, the government would control that puddle. It’s dead. There is zero chance that it will go through.”
Despite Trump’s open skepticism about global warming, Lehr doesn’t anticipate a sudden reversal in Washington policy regarding climate change.
“So far I haven’t read a single word that makes me believe we are going to back up at all on climate change,” he said. “There is no question that Trump feels that it is a hoax, and it is the biggest hoax ever perpetrated on society, and I think he will stick with that. But I think it will take some time to slowly wind it down reasonably. Over a period of time, the more than $5 billion a year of research money that goes to support the climate models at the academic levels will dry up. The maximum of Trump’s backing off will be to assign a new committee of non-hoaxters to study the issue and come out with directives, the bottom line which will be that the climate is always changing, let’s keep our eye on it, let’s make sure that we are prepared for whatever happens.”
Despite reports that former Goldman Sachs investment banker Steven Mnuchin – the national finance chairman for Trump’s campaign – is a top contender for secretary of the treasurer, Lehr doesn’t anticipate a resurgence in carbon credits and carbon exchanges. Goldman Sachs was once a leading proponent of a Cap and Trade system through which it hoped to be the largest player in a carbon credit exchange that President Barack Obama once estimated to be a $646 billion business over seven years. Another major player in carbon trading was Generation Investment Management, founded by former Vice President Al Gore, with three former Goldman Sachs bankers.
“Carbon credits have never gotten off the ground,” Lehr said. “I think the money that has been wasted on carbon credits and carbon exchanges is going to be reduced.”
He believes tax incentives, including incentives for food waste processing technologies and green fuel production, will be eliminated under the Trump administration.
“I’ve always thought that turning food waste into fuel was a great idea,” he said. But it can never compete with fossil fuel. We don’t have 100 or 200 years of shale gas and oil in this country. We have 1,000 years. These (alternative) fuels are going to be a niche market. I don’t want to see them go out of business but  I don’t want to give them any tax breaks either. I can predict for sure than in the next four years we’re going to see a dramatic reduction in tax breaks on energy and a lot of things that have been around a long time.”
Lehr believes Trump’s cabinet will “make life better for every single industry. The people who read your magazine are going to positively influenced. If they live on tax breaks or they live on regulations that make their competitors lives more difficult, then they may not benefit. But in the long haul businesses will benefit by an economic boom.”
LaGasse has the same hopes for a booming economy and a better business climate spurred by rolling back regulatory obstacles. He also hopes to see an end to tax credits and subsidies that favor some industries over others.
“They create inequities in the marketplace and support technologies that aren’t marketable or can’t survive in a free market,” LaGasse said.
Specifically, he says, subsidizing biomass energy diverts wood from mulch producers.
“Government subsidies - whether they are U.S. based or whether they are by foreign markets like the U.K., which subsidizes the import of millions of tons of wood pellets - take materials out of the historic wood fiber marketplace and redirect them. Instead of depending on a heavily subsidized foreign market we need to develop our own markets. America first is not a bad idea. If we spend our money here at home and improve our infrastructure and make the marketplace a stable place to do business, how is that bad?”
LaGasse hopes the Trump administration will “take a stronger look at EPA and correct some of the errors that it has made recently.”
That includes WOTUS, which LaGasse has said “presents a big problem for anybody who wants to make changes to their property.”
“We’re in the hopeful phases that they will be rolled back,” he said. “I think people have voted for the premise of returning regulatory agencies to being more regulators and less advocates. If (Trump) curtails some of the overreaching regulation like WOTUS, more development can proceed. Housing can expand. More jobs let more people afford housing, which creates more demand for our products.”
Hopper, lead attorney in the first lawsuit filed against the Obama administration to block implementation of WOTUS, said he is hopeful that the rule will be rolled back, along with climate change regulations.
“Trump has publicly stated his view that the WOTUS rule is unconstitutional, so it is likely he will pull the rule at some point,” Hopper said. “But it is equally likely the Justice Department will continue to defend the rule up until Trump takes office. The most likely outcome is that the new president will allow the Sixth Circuit (U.S. Court of Appeals) to decide the case, which almost certainly will go against the government given the Sixth Circuit’s nationwide injunction which held the rule was likely invalid statutorily and constitutionally. When that happens, Trump can pull the rule and refuse to defend it in the Supreme Court.”
Meanwhile, Hopper said he hopes Trump will roll back climate and carbon regulations, although he expects that it would take months before any changes are seen.
“I think Trump is serious about scaling back regulation, especially environmental and immigration regulations,” Hopper said. “In some cases, he may do so through an executive order, perhaps within his first 100 days.  In other cases, he may have to allow the agency to issue a new rule that withdraws or supersedes the existing rule. This could take a couple years. There is a lot of inertia in some of these agencies like EPA and it will take awhile for the new administration to move its agenda down the line.”
Unlike Lehr, Hopper doesn’t foresee the elimination or reduction of the size of EPA.
“Even curtailing the agency seems unlikely,” he said. “So much of what the agency does is the result of entrenched, unelected bureaucrats overstepping their enforcement power. I don’t see that changing no matter who is in charge at the top. Even small-government types seem to change their attitude when they get to Washington and start working in these immense agencies like EPA. I fear the most we can hope for, at least in the near future, is to hold the line on EPA or simply slow its growth.”
Hopper said Trump’s lasting legacy may turn on who he appoints to the Supreme Court.
“This more than anything will make or break our country,” he said. “If Trump appoints some like-minded individual to replace Justice Scalia, at least the current balance of power on the court will remain with ongoing protections for landowners, state’s rights, and individual liberty. If, perchance, he gets to replace someone else on the bench, like Justice Ginsburg, that could provide a safeguard against big government for decades, if not generations.”
Franciosi said he wants to wait until Trump takes office before making any projections as so whether the new president will be a friend or foe to the composting business.
“We don’t even know who the EPA (administrator) is going to be, so it’s too early to say,” he said. “I can tell you that the people in the EPA who are working in resource management have been extremely cooperative and they and the USDA want to see the food scraps problem taken care of from a number of levels. From the standpoint of permitting, everything is done at the state level, so I don’t see any impact there. There are some bills in the Senate on food recovery. Those bills have proposed language on infrastructure funding. It seems to me that the new administration is big on infrastructure and big on jobs, and if you look at composting compared to other waste disposal options it creates more jobs than landfilling and incineration. The Institute of Local Self Reliance has done some studies on that. So the message we need to get out is that we are a better option when it comes to building infrastructure and creating jobs.”
Franciosi said he is a “firm believer” in climate change, in contrast to Trump’s view of climate change as a hoax.
“But what we do as an industry benefits the environmental tremendously, not only from a greenhouse gas standpoint, but also when you look at all of the eco- system benefits composting provides, like water saving, less pesticide, less fertilizer, better healthy soil. Those all relate economically as well as environmentally. We have been through this before with prior administrations.”
Franciosi said the Trump administration isn’t likely to support green energy, which could impact USCC members who are involved in food to biogas projects. He said, however, that most green fuel incentives are offered at the state level.
Franciosi said that from the standpoint of federal regulations, the only area that directly impacts composters is in biosolids composting.
“It’s the states that are overseeing the regulations that allow composting facilities to operate, and many of them in are in the process of reviewing their regulations,” he said. “We’re here to help them. We have templates for composting legislation, and if any changes are going to be made, they should be science based, not based on hearsay.”

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Judge blocks green waste compost for organic growing

By Ken McEntee

Composting News

The ability to use of green waste compost to grow certified organic crops is in limbo after a federal judge vacated USDA guidance that allows compost that might contain pesticide residuals.
The Western Growers Association (WGA) called the ruling “short-sighted and potentially market-devastating.”
Following this month’s ruling by Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley, of the U.S. District Court, Northern California District, Guidance Document NOP 5016 will be vacated effective August 22. That will exclude green waste compost – mainly grass clippings - from being used in organic growing unless it is proven not to be contaminated by residual pesticides. The court sent the matter sent to the USDA, which administers the National Organic Program (NOP), for further action, providing a tight two-month window.
USDA created the problem in 2011 when it adopted NOP 5016 without putting the guidance document through the proper public review process as mandated by the federal Administrative Procedures Act (APA). That was the basis of a lawsuit filed last year by the Oakland, Calif.-based Center for Environmental Health (CEH) and two other environmental groups against USDA. The plaintiffs asked the court to vacate NOP 5016, which they dubbed the “Contaminated Compost Decision,” due to the APA violations. CEH said the allowance for compost that might contain pesticide residuals would compromise the integrity of the organics program.
"We applaud the court's decision to protect the integrity of the organic program," said Caroline Cox, research director for CEH. "We will continue to watchdog the USDA to insure that the program meets consumers' expectations for meaningful organic standards."
The Organic Trade Association (OTA), which represents more than 8,500 organic growers, processors and other businesses, said the court decision may disrupt the organic industry.
“OTA is concerned that prematurely removing this guidance for all organic operations will create serious disruptions to the organic industry, especially for organic producers who have been following the NOP’s regulations on the application of organic compost,” said Maggie McNeal, OTA’s director of media relations. “The lifting of this longstanding policy will also cause a significant disruption to certified organic manufacturers, handlers, and processors. Packaged organic food products must be made of certified organic ingredients obtained from certified organic farms. If the certification of the farms that produce these ingredients is voided, or even under challenge, certified organic manufacturers will be limited in their ability to obtain and use these ingredients.”
WGA, a trade association whose members farm about 185,000 certified organic acres and use an estimated one million tons of compost every year, argued prior to Corley’s ruling that vacating NOP 5016 would necessitate expensive pesticide testing on compost made from grass clippings before it could be used for certified organic production.
Such testing requirements would cause “extraordinary cost increases that may render organic production economically infeasible,” according to Hank Giclas, senior vice president, strategic planning, science & technology for WGA. The association provided input to the court as an amicus to show that the sudden withdrawal of the guidance would harm organic agriculture, composting operations and consumers in California.
“We asked the court to simply allow USDA to fix any procedural problem to the guidance without doing away with these important rules that codify well-established organic practices,” said Dennis Nuxoll, vice president of federal government affairs for WGA. “Now, starting in August, California organic farmers – who have followed USDA’s lead in good faith – won’t know the rules of the road.”
He said WGA is concerned that certified organic farmers will no longer enjoy the protections of NOP Guidance 5016 if their organic compost contains incidental residues of prohibited substances that they did not cause – opening them up to potential lawsuits.
“Furthermore, we recognize that no analytical testing currently exists to confirm the absence of all disallowed chemical substances, and the cost of trying to conduct such testing would be prohibitive and could render organic production economically unfeasible,” Nuxoll said.
Frank Franciosi, executive director of the U.S. Composting Council (USCC), said the council’s Legislative & Environmental Affairs Committee was looking into the matter and should have a response in early- to mid-July.
“It is very expensive to test for residuals of pesticides in compost, but the big thing is who is going to set the limits, if there are going to be any,” Franciosi said. “It is pretty impossible in today’s environment to have materials that are void of any kind of manmade substance.”
The suit was filed in April 2015 against USDA, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service and the NOP. Plaintiffs said NOP 5016 changed the existing rules for the use of compost in organic production and should have gone through an appropriate process of public notice and comment before it was implemented.
The issue originated in 2009, when the California Department of Food Control and Agriculture (CDFA) found residue of NOP-prohibited pesticide bifenthrin in samples of three different commercial green waste compost products made by Grover Environmental Products, Feather River Organics and Nortech Waste LLC. Bifenthrin is used to control fire ants and other inspects and is applied to lawns through a variety of brand name products. CDFA advised organic producers and accredited certifying agents that the three affected composts were banned for use in organic crop production.
NOP said it then addressed the issue nationally by sending a draft policy on pesticide residues in compost to accredited organic certifying agents and received six comments, all of which “urged the NOP to take an alternative approach” to the CDFA decision. Following that, USDA issued NOP 5016, which applied an “unavoidable residual contamination” exception to compost.
The lawsuit was filed five years later.
OTA said it will participate in any upcoming comment process to ensure that the needs of organic operations are heard.
“But we remain concerned that removing the compost guidance prematurely will throw the market into disarray,” OTA said. “With no guidance, there could be inconsistency – which is not desired by certified organic operations or consumers.”