Setting the Record Straight - Refuting the Opposition's Misleading Statements
Opponents of Measure E have been running a campaign based on fear, uncertainty and doubt to scare people into voting no. Don’t be fooled. Here are the facts:
False Claim: Measure E is risky.
FACT: Measure E only makes the land available for further exploration of a waste-to-energy facility. It does not determine a specific technology, nor require that a facility be built if the expected benefits don’t materialize. It involves zero risk.
False Claim: Measure E would be expensive.
FACT: According to the financial scenario deemed most realistic by staff, anaerobic digestion (including building a facility) would likely save the City $18 million over the first 20 years, and substantially more after that. The projected Year 20 cost for anaerobic digestion is $53 per ton, vs. $123 per ton for the export option favored by opponents of Measure E.
False Claim: Palo Alto already has a viable means of processing its organic waste.
FACT: Palo Alto currently incinerates its sewage sludge at a cost of more than $1.5 million per year. Building a replacement incinerator, which would be necessary to continue this process, would cost $314 million.
False Claim: The technology is unproven.
FACT: Measure E does not specify a particular technology. The direction we take will be up to City Council following thorough review of all the options. A likely scenario is wet anaerobic digestion of sewage sludge and food waste followed by aerobic composting of the residue with some yard waste. This process is being successfully employed in hundreds of communities.
False Claim: A waste-to-energy facility would create noise and odors
FACT: Measure E states, “The Facility shall include all feasible methods for mitigating any significant environmental impacts identified during environmental review, including visual, sound and odor.” The City’s consultant studied a fully enclosed facility operating with a vacuum, so air would get sucked in and filtered before being released. In Europe, some anaerobic digesters are located in residential neighborhoods.Misleading Photos: Opponents of Measure E show photos of pristine wetlands, suggesting these areas are at risk.
Opponents’ Claim: Environmental review hasn’t been done.
FACT: There’s no project on the table, so there’s nothing to study. If City Council moves forward with a project, full environmental review and permitting will be required. Former Assemblymember John Knox, who authored the California Environmental Quality Act, has endorsed Measure E.
Opponents’ Claim: Installing an anaerobic digestion facility would require “digging up more than 3.5 million cubic feet of old garbage, spreading it across remaining parkland, and releasing tons of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.”
FACT: Measure E only allows up to 10 acres of the landfill to be used. It will be up to City Council how large the physical facility would be, and most of the site is flat. Some potential technologies, such as static aerated piles to compost food and yard waste, would not require excavation.
False Claim: Measure E would allow a factory to be built in our park.
FACT: Anaerobic digestion, the most likely technology, uses microorganisms in enclosed containers to break down organic waste into biogas (green energy) and compost. This biological process has existed in nature for billions of years. The facility studied by the City’s consultant would be fully enclosed, with state-of-the-art noise and odor controls. There would be no assembly lines, smokestacks or other features associated with factories.
False Claim: Once the land is undedicated, it could be used for anything.
FACT: Measure E clearly states, “The Property shall be removed from dedication as parkland, for the exclusive purpose of building a facility for converting yard trimmings, food waste, other municipal organics and/or sewage sludge from the regional wastewater treatment plant by biological and/or other environmentally equally protective technology.” The City attorney has confirmed that the site could not be used for any other purpose.
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