Vermont e-scrap regulators under fire over Casella contract

Vermont e-scrap regulators under fire over Casella contract

By Dan Leif, E-Scrap News

Oct. 25, 2013

A recent decision by Vermont to move statewide electronics collection away from the entities that built the program's infrastructure has led to an e-scrap flap in the Green Mountain State.

A pair of articles in local news outlets have called into question why the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) chose to award its one-year contract to Casella Waste Systems and reject plans from nonprofit association Northeast Resource Recovery Association (NRRA) and its collection subcontractor, Good Point Recycling.

The new contract took effect earlier this month when Casella, a publicly traded company, began collecting e-scrap from the 102 locations across the state that allow residents to drop off end-of-life electronics free of charge.

NRRA and Good Point together won the state's initial collection contract after the program was put in place through legislative efforts in 2010, and they then went to work establishing drop-off sites and publicizing the program. The entities were awarded a 15-month contract extension in the summer of 2012.

This summer NRAA and Good Point had their initial bid to continue helming the program accepted, but after a series of subsequent negotiations on contract specifics, the state announced it was handing collection duties to Casella, the Rutland, Vermont-based firm that had finished second in the latest bidding process.

"We were totally surprised by it," NRRA executive director Mike Durfor told E-Scrap News. "Obviously, we had different interpretations on how negotiations were going."

ANR officials have stated that the move was a financially motivated one and that they were trying to maximize revenues that went back to individual collection locations. But Durfor and Robin Ingenthron, who runs Good Point, have contended that their offer was just as financially competitive as that of Casella.

Ingenthron and Durfor have also voiced concerns about two specifics areas of the Casella contract:

-It includes a clause that guarantees Casella payment of $720,000 if ANR were to approve hauling by an "independent" entity (no such clause was ever offered to NRRA/Good Point, Durfor and Ingenthron say).

-It approves use of a method of CRT glass processing that utilizes the material as landfill cover, a new technology that may not adhere to Vermont's stated recycling standards.

Joe Fusco, vice president of Casella, told E-Scrap News that guarantees like the $720,000 clause in the Vermont e-scrap deal are fairly standard in the company's contracts. "It's merely something that protects someone who is going to deploy a lot of capital," he said. "If you didn't have something like that, no one would want to offer services."

Fusco said he couldn't discuss specifics of the company's plans for dealing with CRTs, but he said any processes proposed were on par with state demands. "I believe Vermont is perfectly satisfied with how we have proposed to bring service," he said. "It meets their standards. In the eyes of the agency, you'd have to assume everything is as it should be."

The Vermont deal is Casella's first contract to handle collection for a state e-scrap program.

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