Saturday, December 16 , 2017, 3:41 am | Smoke 54º

 
 
 
 

Ron Fink: What Does Saving Environment Cost Average Family?

The city of Lompoc solid waste division says all that recycling we have been doing has reduced the bulk tonnage and subsequently cut into revenues at the landfill.

Therefore, over the last few years, they have substantial raised single-family residence (SFR) rates to offset the losses.

This is a common issue with all jurisdictions that collect your waste; “saving the environment” is costing us tax- and rate-payers a bundle.

Readers will recall that environmental upgrades at the Lompoc wastewater plant cost $83 million a few years ago, and our rates have steadily gone up to help pay for it. And when we saved water and electricity the reduced demand resulted in higher rates.

In Santa Barbara, the city decided to build a desalinization plant to help provide water for the growing needs of the city.

Even though they had hijacked the waters of the Santa Ynez and Lompoc valleys starting in 1904 when they built the Gibraltar dam site and the right-of-way for Mission Tunnel, they have developed more property than the water system can serve.

The result — a massive increase in water rates.

Concerning trash, when I buy a can or plastic bottle of pop, I pay a recycling fee, typically a nickel a can or $1.20 a case.

I can get my money back if I cart the empties to a recycling center or toss them in the trash bin and then pay to have them hauled away and additional fees for “lost revenue” at the dump.

If I try to recycle my trash, I am guilty of “reducing the bulk tonnage” that is processed through the landfill and denying the city a chance to earn recycling dollars to offset costs.

The city of Lompoc said raises were justified “Due to larger than expected increases in vehicle rental charges, increased labor costs, and increased regulations requiring unfunded mandates, expenditure projections were underestimated.”

You see, the utility “rents” it’s trash trucks from the General Fund motor pool and thus, the city must pay the city for the privilege of using city vehicles. Which only makes sense if you’re a bureaucrat.

Way back when, there were three guys on each trash truck; one to drive and two to toss the cans full of waste into the truck.

Then, in a fit of efficiency, the local trash haulers decided to create a trash-hauling marvel of hydraulic cylinders and articulated arms that grabbed the can and tossed it into the truck. All this could be operated by one person and costs would be reduced.

At least that was the theory. Today, three large trucks, costing nearly 10 times more to build, with one person each, now roam the same route because you can’t co-mingle the trash any more.

So, manpower wise, they didn’t save anything, and the cost of equipment and maintenance soared to unthinkable heights.

Next, they explained the relationship between changes in environmental laws and our pocket books:

“In 1989, the state of California implemented AB939 (The Integrated Waste Management Act) which required 50% diversion of buried trash from the landfill by the year 2000.

"The more material recycled or diverted from the landfill, the less revenue the landfill receives. As a general rule, it costs more to recycle a ton of material than it does to bury it.”

Once again, this only makes sense in California.

In addition, the Global Warming Solutions Act (AB32), and Federal Environmental Protection Act Mandatory Green House Gas Reporting Rule and New Source Performance Standards/Emission Guidelines required the Solid Waste Division to implement mandatory commercial and multi-family recycling, and install a methane collection system at the landfill.

More costs for rate-payers.

So, what has the Lompoc City Council historically done with rates? Between 2007 and today, my rates have gone from $23.79 to $30.74 a month to throw away packaging material I paid for at the store.

That’s about a 30 percent increase in 10 years. And, rates are slated to continue growing in the years to come.

I wonder what state regulators and local utilities will think of next.

— Ron Fink, a Lompoc resident since 1975, is retired from the aerospace industry and has been active with Lompoc municipal government commissions and committee since 1992, including 12 years on the Lompoc Planning Commission. He is also a voting member of the Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association. Contact him at [email protected]. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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