Our business activities are regulated by extensive federal, state and local environmental laws, regulations and permits. Some of these, like the United States federal Clean Air Act, together with its delegated state programs, govern the discharge of air pollutants. With state-of-the-art emission-control technologies, Covanta’s Energy-from-Waste (EfW) facilities are well equipped to meet compliance requirements.
Under the Clean Air Act, the federal regulatory standards for the EfW industry are developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency through the Maximum Achievable Control Technology (“MACT”) process. The emissions of our EfW facilities are well below the required limits set through this process—an example of our commitment to achieving strong environmental performance that helps protect human health and our environment. Our sustainability goals and program have been important drivers of this success, resulting in significant emissions reductions since our program’s initial inception in 2007.
We aim to maintain exemplary environmental performance and to be in full compliance with all existing environmental regulatory and remediation laws. At our EfW facilities, compliance with air pollution standards is determined predominantly through continuous emission monitoring systems (CEMS) and annual stack tests. Both are important for determining a facility’s environmental performance, and both rely on approved methods and equipment and must follow strict quality assurance and quality control requirements.
Our North American EfW facilities averaged 99.95 percent compliant over the three-year period from 2012 to 2014, as measured by our continuous emission monitoring systems; we have exceeded 99.9 percent for the past eight years. Additionally, by the end of 2014, we had gone four years without a stack test failure—that’s roughly 4,000 total tests with no failures.
Occasionally, we are subject to proceedings and orders that pertain to environmental permitting and other regulatory requirements, potentially resulting in fines or penalties. Our total environmentally related fines and penalties at our North American EfW facilities were $122,219, $25,750, and $42,300 in 2013, 2014, and 2015 respectively.
In 2015, we were fined $100,000 and issued a notice of violation for construction without a solid waste permit at our new regional metal processing facility located in Fairless Hills, PA. A solid waste permit was subsequently issued, and construction of the facility resumed. We were also assessed a total of $47,800 in fines associated with our Delano biomass to energy facility located in California for violations, including two air emissions events, one for SO2 and the second for opacity. Due to challenging economic conditions for biomass to energy facilities in California, the facility is no longer in operation.
Air Pollutant Controls
We use state-of-the-art pollution control systems at our facilities. In 2014, we began construction at the New Jersey Essex facility to install enhanced particulate emissions control technology in the form of a new baghouse to replace the existing electrostatic precipitator. The upgraded technology is projected to lower certain particulate and metals emissions by 30–90 percent, depending on the pollutant. The project was successfully completed in 2016.