Monday, July 24, 2006

SWMP: Bill Due

In today's NY Daily News reporter Frank Lombardi takes a hard look at unexamined costs of the recently passed SWMP. As he put it; "In all of the debate last week, little was made of the cost factor." Of course, that wasn't all that was left unexamined.

Once again we need to take our hats off to the mayor for his political sleight-of-hand. He new exactly which politically correct buttons to push and did so with skill. While all eyes were focused on environmental justice and the siting of transfer stations, no one was at the old adding machine or, as we have said before, no one was looking at the "emperor's new clothes" waste reduction components of the SWMP.

One thing we can guarantee: The cost estimates out of Commissioner Doherty's mouth are ridiculously low balled. "In the area" of $107/ton? (Which is about $105 million a year to the tax payer). This is way low because it doesn't cover the capital costs of constructing the 4 MTS. (Which the IBO estimates would add another $24/ton and $84 million a year in costs). These figures overlook the expected price escalation that will accompany dwindling landfill space and the lack of competition in the waste business.

Therefore,the silliest thing that the commissioner said at last week's hearing was, "But the big thing is we're locking in some of the costs that the city would face over the next twenty years." This is because the city is negotiating long term leases with the giant waste oligopoly which we just know will keep these costs fixed even if landfill costs happen to rise or the destination states jack up their own push through costs (assuming that they allow the garbage to come in at all).

So as usual the real issues get buried along with the garbage. What we find especially interesting is that when it is suggested to the city that they look to the use of food waste disposers to reduce the need to export garbage (and perhaps to build extra MTS capacity) the accountants come out en masse and tell us to the decimal point just how much this is going to cost.

Yet in the entire discussion of the SWMP not a single volunteered figure from a city official on the cost of the plan. When city folks don't discuss the price of something it usually means that sticker shock is just around the corner.