E-Scrap News

Wisconsin firm heads to Arkansas, leaving regulators scratching heads

A three-year-old e-scrap firm in Wisconsin says it is opening its newest plant elsewhere because permit requirements at home have held up its plans for a CRT processing operation. But Wisconsin officials say they never actually halted construction and that the regulatory questions they raised are bound to follow the company regardless of its location.

The drama stems from recent comments Dale Helgeson, CEO of DP Electronic Recycling, made to a Wisconsin newspaper.  The assertions were later included in a story by the Associated Press. According to the AP article, Helgeson said he had been waiting for 18 months to get permits for a facility in Elkhorn, Wisconsin where DP had plans to develop a system for converting end-of-use and discarded CRT glass into floor tiles.

Helgeson also claimed DP was losing $1 million a month in revenue as it waited to build in WIsconsin and that the company gained permit approvals in just three months in Arkansas.

Reports on the issue have inferred that the delay in permitting is connected to decisions made by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

An official at the DNR, however, said he was confused by such statements. In an extended interview with E-Scrap News, DNR official Ed Lynch clarified that DNR has served only in an advisory capacity to DP as the electronics recycling company prepares to meet EPA’s proposed Definition of Solid Waste (DSW) rule.

Lynch said that while his agency had worries about the tiles produced in DP’s proposed process potentially containing or emitting lead, DNR was ultimately not responsible for approving any actual construction.

Lynch went on to characterize DNR’s relationship with DP as positive and added that he believes the two sides have learned a great deal from one another over the past 18 months. Why did DP then decide to build in Arkansas instead of Wisconsin? Lynch said he didn’t have a good answer. “I don’t know, but I suspect the people in Arkansas will have similar questions,” he said. “In the future, EPA may have some questions.”

At press time, Helgeson and DP had not responded to requests for comment from E-Scrap News.

Draft regulations of EPA’s DSW rule detail four criteria to determine the legitimacy of a recycling business. A provision contained in the regulations would allow for a company to submit a “legitimacy variance petition” to EPA and, if approved, operate despite failing to meet one of two elements contained in the DSW’s fourth criterion, “Comparison of toxics in the product.”

Lynch said DNR encouraged DP to prepare a “legitimacy variance petition” and agreed to review it, sending a letter in January 2013 to DP detailing his office’s opinion of the petition and supporting documentation. “Part of our mission here is to protect human health and the environment,” Lynch told E-Scrap News. “In looking over this proposal [from DP] what we’re seeing is an end product that potentially has more lead in it and we have questions about where the lead goes. We’re not actually approving anything; we’re advising and rendering an opinion.”

The January 2013 letter, sent by DNR’s Ann M. Coakley, echoed these concerns but left the door open for DP to go forward with its plans to build a Wisconsin site: “Despite these concerns, DP may proceed with applying for the other necessary state and local permits and approvals, while continuing to work on the recycling legitimacy issues,” the letter concluded.

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