Next week, city of Los Angeles solid waste managers hope to receive proposals that will lead to construction of a waste-to-energy plant by 2010. Los Angeles expects such a facility can produce a wide variety of products, from electricity to chemicals and ethanol by 2010. However, by treating new waste-to-energy conversion technologies in Southern California like old waste incineration plants, proponents of such facilities fear that the facilities will be unable to get needed permits. \u201cThe waste we create today can become the electricity we use to run our homes and businesses and the liquid fuels we need for transportation,\u201d said Jim Stewart, chair of the BioEnergy Producers Association. \u201cThere is a very repressive regulatory environment in California for construction of these types of waste to energy facilities,\u201d he added Seeking to change that, the association and a host of public officials in the Los Angeles area are pressing to amend a bill, SB 1020, authored by Senator Alex Padilla (D-San Fernando Valley). The measure would raise the state\u2019s recycling requirement for solid waste from 50 to 75 percent. The conversion technology proponents want the bill changed so that waste diverted to the new plants would qualify for recycling credit. They also want the solid waste law changed so they are treated as normal manufacturing plants when it comes to air emissions rather than what they now say is an effective zero emissions standard. Padilla acknowledged their concerns. \u201cWe need more tools in the tool box,\u201d he said. He noted that he has been in discussions with waste to energy conversion proponents on a possible amendment. However, he emphasized that \u201cthey are one of many stakeholders around a very large table\u201d involved in the bill. SB 1020 has passed the Senate and is pending before the Assembly Appropriations Committee. The city\u2019s interest in developing a waste to energy conversion plant comes under the Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa\u2019s plan to green the giant city. Renewed interest in tapping municipal waste as a source of energy comes amid a rapidly changing landscape that involves a host of new conversion technologies and growing state pressure to reduce the volume of solid waste disposed of in landfills and greenhouse gases. The city\u2019s vision to turn trash into energy products has generated tremendous interest in the private sector, with 225 companies expressing initial interest. However, after culling the wheat from the chaff, city solid waste managers honed the field down to a short list of 20 pre-qualified companies they now hope will submit bids by the August 22 deadline. The county also is interested in developing such waste to energy facilities, said Coby Skye, Los Angeles County Department of Public Works associate civil engineer. However, Los Angeles county officials have joined city officials and conversion technology companies in fretting that the state\u2019s solid waste law makes it very difficult for the plants to gain permits, said Skye, even though they are completely different. Not all agree, though, about the need to change the law. \u201cThey\u2019re delusional,\u201d said Mark Murray, Californians Against Waste executive director. He said that the new conversion technologies are not hampered by permit requirements, but are uneconomical in California because tipping fees at landfills remain in the $30 to $40 a ton range instead of the $75 to $100 a ton range that would make them financially viable. Those economics could change, though, if local governments were offered diversion credit for waste sent to such plants, Murray acknowledged, but he questioned whether turning waste into energy constituted its \u201cbest and highest use.\u201d A 2005 life cycle analysis of various waste management methods and technologies by the California Integrated Waste Management Board in 2005 showed that new conversion technologies based on thermal gasification or biological processing compared favorably on net energy, greenhouse gas emissions, and smog-forming air pollutants compared to landfills, recycling, and traditional waste incineration plants. Padilla said he is hopeful his bill will become law this fall and create a more holistic approach to how the state deals with waste, including addressing related greenhouse gas emissions. Editors\u2019 note: For a more detailed version of the Los Angeles ethanol story, please see our new sister publication: E=MC2 \u2013 Energy Meets Climate Challenge. You can find it at www.energymeetsclimate.com.