Palo Alto Weekly

Cover Story - October 21, 2011

A Measure E primer

A 'yes' on Measure E

* A new waste-to-energy facility would keep the city from trucking its yard trimmings and food waste to San Jose and Gilroy, thereby reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.

* The new facility would generate electricity, boosting the city's renewable-energy portfolio.

* The city would not be obligated to build the waste-to-energy facility at the park site, though it would have the option of doing so if the facility were to prove economically and environmentally feasible, based on required environmental studies.

* The plant might be cheaper than the cost of hauling waste to San Jose and Gilroy — provided the facility is built by a private entity or the city builds it but receives grants.

* A plant could allow the city to centralize three waste streams — yard trimmings, food waste and sewage sludge — in one location, producing operational efficiencies.

A 'no' on Measure E

* Defeating Measure E would preserve the 10-acre site as dedicated parkland and reduce the footprint of waste facilities at Byxbee Park.

* The technology of the proposed waste-to-energy facility has not been decided upon and — if using dry anaerobic digestion to process food scraps, yard trimmings and biosolids — remains largely untested.

* Palo Alto already pays to have its solid waste shipped to the Sunnyvale Materials Recovery and Transfer (SMaRT) Station, which sorts it and forwards unsalvageable materials to landfills.

* Proponents' best economic projections assume the project will either be privately owned or city-owned and receiving state and/or federal grants, which may not happen.

* While the city's consultants found that a dry anaerobic digester could be a cheaper option than exporting waste if certain conditions are met, they also found that all other alternatives for the facility could be more expensive than using the SMaRT Station.

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