Navigating the Permitting Process for Waste to Energy Facilities

The permitting and compliance phase of a Waste to Energy (WtE) project can be complex and lengthy. However, experienced environmental engineering firms can help navigate this process smoothly if they thoroughly understand it. They should also have developed strong relationships with regulatory personnel and governing bodies on federal, state, and local levels.

Permitting requirements vary widely from state to state. In Florida, for example, the Florida Department of Energy offers a Permitting and Compliance Assistance Program which is comprised of Financial Assistance, Hazardous Waste Regulation, Solid Waste Management, and Storage Tank Compliance.  Hazardous waste, solid waste, and storage tanks are regulated by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. These sections provide various resources as summarized below:

  • Financial assistance – Implements the state’s financial assurance and responsibility programs for Solid and Hazardous Waste Tanks programs.
  • Hazardous Waste Regulation – Manages the statewide hazardous waste program while interacting with the EPA, district offices and other department programs related to hazardous waste compliance, enforcement and permitting.
  • Solid Waste Management – Develops rules, policy and financial assurance compliance to the state’s solid waste management program. Provides technical assistance to the district offices for permits, compliance and enforcement associated with solid waste facilities.
  • Storage Tanks Compliance – In the past three decades, more than 28,000 facilities in Florida have reported discharges of petroleum products from storage tank systems. This section assists with permitting and compliance for these storage tank systems.

Quick Facts about WtE

  1. One ton of MSW combusted reduces oil use by one barrel (i.e., 35gallons) or 0.25 tons of coal.
  2. A single ton of MSW combusted, rather than landfilled, reduces greenhouse gas emissions by an established 1.5 tons of carbon dioxide.
  3. Unlike landfills, WtE plants do not adversely impact soil or groundwater quality.
  4. WtE plants reduce the space required for landfilling by about 90%.

Typical Permitting and Zoning Requirements for WtE facilities

  • Site control must be established through lease or ownership
  • Proper zoning and land use conformity must be obtained
  • All necessary environmental permits must be obtained
  • Commitments and purchasing agreement must be made for waste supply
  • Ash disposal capacity (e.g., for soil augmentation, use in concrete, or landfilling) must be ascertained
  • Credit worthiness of all project participants must be determined and include financial guarantees

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