Why Successful People Never Bring Smartphones Into Meetings


You are annoying your boss and colleagues any time you take your phone out during meetings, says new research from USC’s Marshall School of Business, and if you work with women and people over forty they’re even more perturbed by it than everyone else.

The researchers conducted a nationwide survey of 554 full-time working professionals earning above $30K and working in companies with at least 50 employees. They asked a variety of questions about smartphone use during meetings and found:

  • 86% think it’s inappropriate to answer phone calls during meetings
  • 84% think it’s inappropriate to write texts or emails during meetings
  • 66% think it’s inappropriate to write texts or emails even during lunches offsite
  • The more money people make the less they approve of smartphone use.

The study also found that Millennials are three times more likely than those over 40 to think that smartphone use during meetings is okay, which is ironic considering Millennials are highly dependent upon the opinions of their older colleagues for career advancement.

TalentSmart has tested the emotional intelligence of more than a million people worldwide and found that Millennials have the lowest self-awareness in the workplace, making them unlikely to see that their smartphone use in meetings is harming their careers.

Why do so many people—especially successful people—find smartphone use in meetings to be inappropriate? When you take out your phone it shows a:

  • Lack of respect. You consider the information on your phone to be more important than the conversation at hand, and you view people outside of the meeting to be more important than those sitting right in front of you.
  • Lack of attention. You are unable to stay focused on one thing at a time.
  • Lack of listening. You aren’t practicing active listening, so no one around you feels heard.
  • Lack of power. You are like a modern-day Pavlovian dog who responds to the whims of others through the buzz of your phone.
  • Lack of self-awareness: You don’t understand how ridiculous your behavior looks to other people.
  • Lack of social awareness: You don’t understand how your behavior affects those around you.

I can’t say I’m surprised by the USC study’s findings. My company coaches leaders using 360° assessments that compare their self-perception to how everyone else sees them. Smartphone use in meetings is one of the most common coworker complaints.

It’s important to be clear with what you expect of others. If sharing this article with your team doesn’t end smartphone use in meetings, take a page out of the Old West and put a basket by the conference room door with an image of a smart phone and the message, “Leave your guns at the door.”

ABOUT THE AUTHORS:

Kevin Kruse is a NYT bestselling author, accomplished speaker, and expert in employee engagement and leadership. Download free articles at his website KevinKruse.com

Dr. Travis Bradberry is the award-winning co-author of the #1 bestselling book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0, and the cofounder of TalentSmart, the world’s leading provider of emotional intelligence tests, emotional intelligence training, and emotional intelligence certification, serving more than 75% of Fortune 500 companies. His bestselling books have been translated into 25 languages and are available in more than 150 countries. Dr. Bradberry has written for, or been covered by, Newsweek, BusinessWeek, Fortune, Forbes, Fast Company, Inc., USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The Harvard Business Review.

Source: WIH Resource Group

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WIH Resource Group is a leader in all of the key markets that it serves. WIH Resource Group provides a blend of global reach, local knowledge, innovation and technical excellence in delivering solutions that create, enhance and sustain the world’s built, natural and social environments.  WIH Resource Group serves clients in more than 175 key markets internationally.

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The Unknown and Unseen Scandal of Hotel Food Waste


Everyone loves a luxury vacation or a fancy hotel buffet, but how are hospitality companies contributing to the global food waste problem? You are about to find out.

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What if every time you sat down for a meal, you threw one-quarter of it in the trash?  That’s the hidden story of waste in the hospitality industry, where an eagerness to please customers has turned into an unseen food scandal.

About 25 per cent of all food that passes through hotel kitchens is thrown out as food waste, and for every diner the hotel serves, about 350 grams is binned, according industry experts Eco-Business spoke to.  Multiply 350g by the hundreds of thousands of hotels and hundreds of rooms, and the figure adds up. For instance, French hotel giant AccorHotels reports that food-related waste makes up half of all trash generated on its properties, though the amount of waste varies according to the type of hotel.

Luxury hotels under its Sofitel and Pullman brands, for instance, churn out 47 tonnes of food waste annually, while mid-range names such as Mercure and Novotel throw away 35 tonnes a year. Economy hotels such as Ibis only produce half that figure, at 17 tonnes a year.

But the waste footprint of a hotel could be much higher depending on its size and the number of food and beverage (F&B) outlets on site, says Benjamin Lephilibert, managing director of hotel food waste consultancy Lightblue Consulting.

“On average we’ve seen hotels waste 35 per cent of all food purchased, with some exceptions like a remote luxury resort in the Maldives, where the figure reaches a stunning 42 per cent,” he says.

The issue of food waste is especially pertinent in the Asia Pacific region, which is home to major food-exporting countries such as the Philippines and China, and is also where most of the world’s 800 million hungry people live. 

It is also the new frontier for the hotel industry as economies such as Myanmar open to tourism. The number of rooms in certain Asian cities could grow as much as 30 per cent in the next few years, according to real estate firm JLL.

But increasing consumer awareness around sustainable travel means customers are showing a preference for hotels that can prove their environmental credentials—65 per cent of travellers, to be more precise, reports a study by travel booking portal Booking.com.

Eat till you drop

The biggest amount of food wastage occurs due to overproduction in the kitchens, notes Maxime Pourrat, the Singapore-based managing director of food waste prevention firm Winnow Solutions’ Asian operations.

Pointing out that buffets are more popular in Asia than in Europe, he says: “In Singapore for example, we love buffets, but we want buffets that look like there’s a lot of food there, and most of this will go to the bin.”

“Some food will be reused [through donations or as raw materials for other dishes], but that’s still overproduction.”

The dinner buffet at Edge, the all-day dining restaurant at Pan Pacific Singapore, is refreshed every two hours to cater to the continuous stream of customers.  Singapore’s National Environment Agency regulations stipulate that food cannot be kept on hold for more than four hours at a certain temperature, says Michele Greggio, executive chef of Pan Pacific Singapore. “But to be safer and ensure we are providing the freshest food possible, we have a two-hour standard, which is in the middle of service.”  The most popular of the hotel’s eight eateries, the Edge restaurant—together with the hotel’s staff canteen—generates 400kg of food waste every month.

Greggio says that chefs at the hotel prepare the amount of food to be served during each meal based on the expected number of guests, which is inferred from reservations and registrations. Kitchen staff also record the amount of leftovers to better anticipate future demand.

However, buffets are good for feeding a large group of people at the same time, though the downside is the amount of food that ends up in the trash, notes Lucas Glanville, director of culinary operations at the Grand Hyatt Singapore.

His guiding principle to running a buffet is to do as one would at home: cooking right when the food is needed. The equivalent in a hotel restaurant setting is cooking dishes at live stations upon request, or a la minute.

“If you go to any of our restaurants, you’ll see small portions of food cooked to order,” he tells Eco-Business.

The five-star hotel has cut its food waste output from 1000kg two years ago to 800kg today by monitoring its waste generation, communicating with staff, and ensuring proper food storage.

By slashing its food waste, the hotel reports that it has achieved S$100,000 in savings per year.

Lightblue Consulting’s Lephilibert says that reducing food waste can result in a reduction of between 3 and 5 per cent in annual food purchasing costs. This in turn translates into savings of US$50,000 (S$67,603) for small three-star hotels serving 15,000-20,000 covers per month, to over US$300,000 (S$405,623) in international brand five-star properties.

Crunching numbers

One major issue in tackling hotel food waste is to get hotel employees to see the value of the food they are tossing out, says Winnow’s Pourrat, adding that people are quite good about reducing their waste once they have the data.

The company installs weighing scales and software in restaurant kitchenshotel staff can then use these to weigh and record the amount and type of food they are throwing away, and the software displays the corresponding carbon emissions and cost price of the food. The data is collected and eventually sent to the hotel’s managers or chefs.

“What gets measured, gets managed. That’s why there’s a reduction in food waste,” he adds.

After trialling Winnow’s solution, AccorHotels this year announced a goal to reduce food waste by 30 per cent across its international portfolio of 4,200 properties by 2020, says Lynn Lee, sustainable development and communications director, Asia Pacific, AccorHotels.

“The results from our pilot programme with Winnow reflected that the food waste reduction had been more than 30 per cent, therefore the group felt that an average reduction of 30 per cent is achievable,” Lee says.

AccorHotels this year began offering its hotels a choice between adopting Winnow’s software-based monitoring system and an in-house programme for properties that are more advanced in the food waste reduction journey, launched in July.

The hotel group has also committed to installing 1,000 urban vegetable gardens by 2020, like the one at the Pullman and Novotel hotels in New Delhi Aerocity.

Another way to repurpose food waste are biodigesters; these are machines that convert food scraps and leftovers into fertilisers or organic wastewater that can be discharged harmlessly into the sewage system.

Hyatt already has a digester and uses its byproducts in its rooftop vegetable garden, while Pan Pacific Singapore plans to install one in the first quarter of 2018.

Biodigesters are the fourth best option according to the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Food Recovery Hierarchy, but have the benefit of reducing the overall carbon footprint associated with transport and disposal”, says Lephilibert. A better option is donate food that is still edible to local charities, he adds.

According to hospitality sustainability consultancy Greenview’s Green Lodging Trends Report, 47.4 per cent of hotels in Asia Pacific donate excess food, higher than other regions. The report also found that 41 per cent of hotels in Asia Pacific say they compost food waste within their premises or externally, while 12 per cent have a digester.

Grand Hyatt’s Glanville says, when asked what his advice was for hotels still on the fence about food waste: “Make a decision—are you part of the problem or the solution?”

“As an industry, it’s not just about producing delicious food and having amazing service. Just as we’re accountable for producing an enjoyable experience for guests, we’re also accountable for what happens afterwards.”

Source: Eco-Business & WIH Resource Group

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WIH Resource Group is a leader in all of the key markets that it serves. WIH Resource Group provides a blend of global reach, local knowledge, innovation and technical excellence in delivering solutions that create, enhance and sustain the world’s built, natural and social environments.  WIH Resource Group serves clients in more than 175 key markets internationally.

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New York Mayor Unveils Environmental Plan on Earth Day 2015


The nation’s biggest city, under the direction of Mayor Bill de Blasio, marked Earth Day on Wednesday by linking a sweeping effort to limit its impact on the environment with its fight against income inequality by pledging to lift more than 800,000 people out of poverty.

WIH Resource Group Mayor of NYC Earth Day 2015

De Blasio unveiled his ambitious OneNYC plan as a comprehensive strategy to improve New Yorkers’ lives by providing affordable housing, shortening commute times and preserving the environment.

“The way forward is to create a vision for one city where there’s opportunity for all, sustainability for all and fairness for all,” de Blasio said. “So many people who have fought for economic justice have also fought for environmental justice because these challenges go hand in hand.”

The waste reduction proposal — first reported Tuesday by The Associated Press — is central to the plan. New York, home to about 8.5 million residents, aims to reduce its waste output by 90 percent by 2030 from its 2005 level. The plan, the biggest undertaken by a city in the Western Hemisphere, would eliminate more than 3 million tons of garbage by overhauling the city’s recycling program, offering incentives to reduce waste and embracing the City Council’s plan to dramatically reduce the use of plastic shopping bags.

The waste reduction plan is part of an update to the sustainability project created by de Blasio’s predecessor, Michael Bloomberg. But even changing its name from PlaNYC to the loftier OneNYC: The Plan for a Strong and Just City, which invokes de Blasio’s campaign promise to combat the “tale of two cities” created by income inequality, makes clear that the updated plan would grow in scope.

The mayor pledged to lift 800,000 New Yorkers out of poverty or near poverty in the next decade, one of the largest anti-poverty efforts in the nation’s history. De Blasio said it would “change the reality of this city.”

He also reiterated his lofty housing goals — he aims to create 500,000 units of affordable housing by 2040 — and said he wants to end racial and ethnic disparities in premature mortality. He pledged to explore new capital expenditures — including the feasibility of a new subway line to serve central Brooklyn — to improve the city’s aging infrastructure and to reduce the average New Yorker’s commuting time to 45 minutes.

But de Blasio declined to discuss the cost — or source of funding — for the projects, saying much of that would be revealed in next month’s budget presentation.

Some resiliency advocates applauded the lofty goals, but others, including Jordan Levine of the New York League of Conservation Voters, chided the plan for not providing specifics on funding and warned that “implementation is where rubber meets the road.”

For decades, the city’s trash has been exported to South Carolina, Virginia, New Jersey, Pennsylvania or upstate New York. The amount of waste produced by the city has fallen 14 percent since 2005 because of an increase in recycling, and a key component of the plan is to bolster that output by simplifying the process and consolidating all recycling into one bin by 2020.

Organics — such as food scraps and yard waste — make up nearly a third of the city’s residential waste stream. A program to collect that material directly from residents’ homes is expanding to nearly 200,000 residents by year’s end, and city officials want to serve every home by the end of 2018. The city also will offer economic incentives to participate, including potentially a property tax rebate for homeowners.

The city also aims to reduce commercial waste by 90 percent by 2030 by adopting a program that could mean tax incentives for participating businesses and fines for nonparticipants.

The de Blasio administration stopped short of endorsing a City Council bill that proposes a 10-cent fee on plastic bags, but officials said that reducing their use is a priority and that they would coordinate efforts with the council.

SOURCE: WIH Resource Group & US News & World Report

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Largest Environmental Bankruptcy in U.S. History Will Result in Payment of $1.79 Billion towards Environmental Cleanup & Restoration – WIH Resource Group


Largest recovery of money for hazardous waste clean up ever.

As a result of the largest environmental bankruptcy in U.S. history, $1.79 billion has been paid to fund environmental cleanup and restoration under a bankruptcy reorganization of American Smelting and Refining Company LLC (ASARCO), the Justice Department, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Department of the Interior and Department of Agriculture announced today. 

ASARCO is a leading producer of copper and one of the largest nonferrous metal producers in the United States. It is based in Arizona and is responsible for sites around the country that are contaminated with hazardous waste.

The money from environmental settlements in the bankruptcy will be used to pay for past and future costs incurred by federal and state agencies at more than 80 sites contaminated by mining operations in 19 states.  Those states are Arizona, Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and Washington.

“Today’s landmark enforcement settlement will provide almost one billion dollars to clean up polluted Superfund sites,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “This will mean cleaner land, water and air for communities across the country.”

“The effort to recover this money was a collaborative and coordinated response by the states and federal government.  Our combined efforts have resulted in the largest recovery of funds to pay for past and future clean up of hazardous materials in the nation’s history.  Today is a historic day for the environment and the people affected across the country,” said Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli.

“This settlement exemplifies government at all levels working effectively for the American taxpayer to recover damages from polluters and restore and protect important national landscapes and significant wildlife resources that have been injured,” said Interior Assistant Secretary Tom Strickland.  “In consultation and collaboration with our state and tribal co-trustees, this money will be used exclusively to restore, replace or acquire the equivalent of resources injured at more than a dozen sites where ASARCO operated and we have identified natural resource damage.”  

“I would like to thank the Department of Justice, the Environmental Protection Agency and USDA Office of General Counsel for their diligence in reaching this comprehensive settlement that will so benefit restoration of public lands,” said Joel Holtrop, Deputy Chief for the National Forest System, U.S. Forest Service, Department of Agriculture.  ”This settlement provides significant resources to address land restoration from past mining activities on National Forest System lands in Arizona, California, Idaho, Montana and Washington.”

Under the terms of the plan, all allowed claims were paid in full along with interest.  Funds were distributed as follows:

The United States received approximately $776 million, which will be distributed in accordance with the underlying settlements to address 35 different sites;

The Coeur d’Alene Work Trust was paid $436 million;

The three custodial trusts which address the owned but not operating properties of ASARCO and involve a total of 13 states and 24 sites were paid a cumulative total of approximately $261 million; and

Payments totaling in excess of $321 million were paid to 14 different states to fund environmental settlement obligations at 36 individual sites.

In total, the payment will address environmental cleanup and restoration at more than 80 sites around the country.  Much of the money paid to the United States will be placed in special accounts in the Superfund to be used by EPA to pay for future cleanup work.  It will also be placed into accounts at the Department of Interior and the Department of Agriculture to pay for natural resource restoration.

ASARCO filed for protection under Chapter 11 of the U.S. bankruptcy code on Aug. 9, 2005.  American Smelting and Refining Company or ASARCO has operated for nearly 110 years—first as a holding company for diverse smelting, refining, and mining operations throughout the United States and now as the Arizona-based integrated copper-mining, smelting, and refining company.

By the time it filed for bankruptcy, ASARCO’s core operating assets were limited to certain operations in the states of Arizona and Texas.  However, it continued to own numerous non-operating properties that were highly contaminated and was subject to environmental claims at sites that were not owned by the company.

In August 2009, following lengthy litigation, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas held a two-week hearing on competing plans of reorganization for ASARCO that would allow the company to be purchased out of bankruptcy.  During this hearing, two competing plans emerged that proposed to pay creditors in full with interest.   

On Aug. 31, 2009, Judge Richard Schmidt of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Corpus Christi issued a recommendation to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas to confirm the plan proposed by ASARCO’s parent company—a subsidiary of Grupo Mexico.  U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen in Brownsville accepted Judge Schmidt’s recommendation and confirmed Grupo Mexico’s plan on Nov. 13, 2009.

On Dec. 9, 2009, Grupo Mexico met its funding obligations and the plan was consummated.  Additionally, the environmental payment and property transfer obligations outlined in the numerous settlement agreements, which had been approved by the bankruptcy court over the course of the litigation, were complied with. 

The full payment of environmental claims, plus interest, will facilitate the cleanup of contamination and restoration of natural resources at numerous sites across the country.  The reorganized company remains liable for environmental liabilities at the properties that it will continue to own and operate.

More information on ASARCO bankruptcy:

http://www.epa.gov/compliance/resources/cases/cleanup/cercla/asarco/index.html

Information on EPA cleanup enforcement: http://www.epa.gov/compliance/cleanup

Sources: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and WIH Resource Group

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Waste Coalition Lawsuit Seeks to Overturn Unconstitutional Cap on Solano County Trash Imports


A coalition of more than twenty waste hauling and recycling companies filed a lawsuit in federal court today seeking to declare invalid a local Solano County ballot initiative believed to be unconstitutional by coalition members and Solano County leaders.

“More than twenty years ago Solano County leaders recognized that this ordinance restricting movement of waste across county lines is illegal under federal law, and the coalition is seeking to secure a court ruling to put this issue to rest,” said Ron Mittelstaedt, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of Waste Connections, Inc. “Measure E threatens the future of safe, efficient and environmentally sound management of regional municipal solid waste. The consequences for Solano County taxpayers could include an annual loss of over $3,000,000 to fund vital local services such as public safety, local road maintenance and environmental compliance,” Mittelstaedt concluded.

The coalition`s complaint, filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California in Sacramento, challenges as unconstitutional the 1984 measure that imposed an annual cap of 95,000 tons – a small fraction of current waste volumes – on the amount of solid waste that may enter Solano County from other jurisdictions for landfill disposal. The initiative, known as “Measure E,” was approved by Solano County voters nearly twenty-five years ago in the November 6, 1984 election.

Solano County has never enforced Measure E, and issued a memorandum concluding that the 1984 initiative is unconstitutional under United States Supreme Court precedent. Measure E discriminates against out-of-county waste, in violation of the United States Constitution`s protection of free movement of interstate commerce. Measure E does not impose limits on the disposal of in-county waste at Solano County landfills. The Legislative Counsel of California reached the same conclusion, writing in a 1992 Opinion that “Measure E, adopted by the voters of
Solano County, violates the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution.”

The coalition points in particular to the potential impacts of Measure E on the Potrero Hills Landfill, which is vital to satisfying the Bay Area`s solid waste disposal needs. If Measure E is enforced, communities across Northern California will pay much higher prices for waste disposal as they search for alternative sites across California and in neighboring states, according to the coalition`s Complaint. Measure E also undercuts a federal court order that the U.S.

Department of Justice and California Attorney General Jerry Brown obtained earlier this year directing that the Potrero Hills Landfill be sold to maintain competition in the solid waste industry in Northern California.

The coalition is filing suit in Federal court to ratify the County`s longstanding belief in the unconstitutionality of Measure E in response to
special interest groups and local activists seeking to compel enforcement of Measure E in order to drastically limit the Landfill`s capacity.

Mittelstaedt added that “Northern California`s waste hauling companies stand united in taking legal action to protect our customers, who have long depended on the unfettered movement of waste across county and state lines. No county is an island and we must all work together to allow waste to move freely to efficient, state of the art, and environmentally sound landfills such as Potrero Hills.”

The coalition members bringing suit represent much of the waste hauling and recycling industry in Northern California, including Potrero Hills Landfill, BLT Enterprises of Sacramento, Brentwood Disposal Service, Concord Disposal Service, Contra Costa Waste Service, Discovery Bay Disposal, El Dorado Disposal Service, Novato Disposal Service, Oakley Disposal Service, Pacific Coast Disposal Corporation, Pittsburg Disposal and Debris Box Service, Redwood Empire Disposal, Rio Vista Sanitation Service, Rohnert Park Disposal, Santa Rosa Recycling and Collection, Sunrise Garbage Service, Timber Cove Recycling, Waste Connections, West Sonoma County Disposal Service, West Sonoma County Transfer and Windsor Refuse and Recycling.

Sources: Waste Connections, Solano County, California, and WIH Resource Group

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Debate on Clean Energy Leads to Regional Divide


While most lawmakers accept that more renewable energy is needed on the nation’s grid, the debate over the giant climate-change and energy bill now before Congress is exposing a fundamental rift.  For many players, the energy not only has to be clean and free of carbon-dioxide emissions, it also has to be generated nearby.

The division has set off a fight between Eastern and Midwestern politicians and grid officials over parts of the bill dealing with transmission lines and solar and wind energy. Many officials, including President Obama, say that the grid is antiquated and that thousands of miles of new power lines are needed to allow construction of wind farms and solar fields in the most promising spots. Many of the best wind sites are in the Midwest, far from the electric load in populous East Coast cities.

An influential coalition of East Coast governors and power companies fears that building wind and solar sites in the Midwest would cause their region to miss out on jobs and other economic benefits. The coalition is therefore trying to block a mandate for transcontinental lines.

They want the wind farms built in rural New England and offshore from Massachusetts to Delaware, and for now it appears that they may get a chance to do that. They are campaigning to keep a provision out of the legislation that would mandate a huge super-high-voltage grid, with the cost spread among millions of electric customers.

“While we support the development of wind resources for the United States wherever they exist,” the governors warned in a May 4 letter to House and Senate leaders, “this ratepayer-funded revenue guarantee for land-based wind and other generation resources in the Great Plains would have significant, negative consequences for our region.”

Dan W. Reicher, an assistant energy secretary in the Clinton administration who now leads energy initiatives at Google, said the debate exposed a conundrum. “The areas with the most attractive renewable energy resources often don’t overlap with the places where the push for job creation is strongest,” Mr. Reicher said.

For example, a wind machine in North Dakota would produce more energy than the same machine in some Eastern states — but energy projects tend to get built in places where they are most wanted.

The East Coast advocates may have won a crucial first round. When the House passed its sweeping energy and climate-change bill on June 26, it included a provision that lets the federal government overrule state objections to new power lines — but only west of the Rockies. Western states would be unlikely to oppose the new power lines in any case: the region has long been accustomed to huge generation projects built at a great distance from load centers.

But the bill would not give the federal government a mandate to overrule the Eastern states on transmission lines. The issue will be on the table again as the Senate takes up the bill in the next few weeks.

A two-year effort by transmission authorities in the eastern half of the country to draw up plans for a strong grid collapsed after grid officials in New York and New England pulled out, saying that the plans were too centered on moving Midwestern energy eastward.

In an interview, Ian A. Bowles, the Massachusetts secretary of energy and environmental affairs, said he questioned “whether or not we need national transmission legislation at all.”

Mr. Bowles suggested that all Congress needed to do was impose a cap on carbon-dioxide emissions and mandate a national renewable energy quota. Then the market could determine whether resources should be in distant spots with long transmission lines or places closer to load centers, he said.

The debate echoes others in past years about whether to build conventional power plants locally or build stronger connections to distant conventional plants.

The governors’ concern, said James B. Robb, a senior vice president of Northeast Utilities, was not only the optimal cost and use of the electricity but also “any fringes that come along with it — the local tax base, local employment, all those kinds of things.”

For years, some planners have talked about a grid powerful enough to allow for “postage-stamp rates,” transmission charges that are small and independent of distance, so that power will be produced wherever it is most economical, even if that is half a continent away from where it is needed. But for local economic reasons some people resisted that idea, even in the days before tapping wind on the plains and sun in the desert became a national goal.

And a weak grid helps some electric companies. Local generators have often been able to charge more by being in the right place at the right time, with no competition because the long-distance lines are already fully loaded, experts say.

“When you have a constrained transmission system and you seek to unconstrain it,” said Mary Ellen Paravalos, the vice president for transmission at National Grid, a New York and New England company, some local parties stand to lose. This is true “even if the wider societal benefit is net positive,” Ms. Paravalos said.

Complicating the debate, many proposed power lines that could carry renewable energy to market could also end up carrying coal-fired power. An improved national grid would end the situation that prevails at many hours in the East today, when coal plants that can produce power cheaply sit idle while cleaner natural gas plants are running full tilt, able to sell their more expensive power because grid traffic is so bad that the coal power cannot reach the market.

That configuration costs consumers money but also reduces emissions of the carbon-dioxide emissions that cause climate change. So contrary to expectations, one effect of a stronger grid, although ardently sought by supporters of renewable energy, could be to push costs down but nudge coal-fired emissions up.

But the basic conflict remains distant energy versus local energy.

“Some states dealing with this issue see it not only as an environmental and least-cost-supply question but also as a potential economic development tool,” said Branko Terzic, a former member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which regulates some power lines.

Mr. Terzic added, “Those three goals are not always concurrent and could be in conflict.”

Source: New York Times

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New York City – Town of Smithtown NY Chooses CNG to Cut Refuse Collection Costs


Faced with rising refuse collection costs, the Town of Smithtown, New York, decided to require its refuse collection contractors to use compressed natural gas (CNG) trucks. It was the first New York municipality to institute such a requirement. On January 1, 2007, the 30 contractor-owned diesel refuse trucks collecting solid waste and recyclables from the town’s 116,000 residents were replaced by 22 CNG models.

Smithtown selected four bidders for seven-year contracts: Brothers Carting, Dejana Industries, Jody Industries, and V. Garafalo Carting. The companies were responsible for buying the new CNG trucks. To offset the higher cost for these trucks versus diesel trucks, the companies had the option of claiming the Federal Alternative Motor Vehicle Credit for up to 80% of the incremental cost. An alliance of local organizations helped the contractors find financing options.

To establish CNG fueling infrastructure, Smithtown partnered with natural gas supplier Clean Energy. With no leasing agreements, access fees, or capital outlay for Smithtown, the contract required Clean Energy to provide the fueling infrastructure and commission local service providers. Because of Smithtown’s new contract with the refuse collectors, Clean Energy had to complete the fueling station in six months–two to four months faster than it usually takes to locate a station, obtain permits, and secure a compressor.

To accomplish this, Clean Energy received permission from the New York Department of Transportation (NYDOT) and Office of General Services to allow expansion of a station in nearby Hauppauge, which Clean Energy already operated for New York State. The Hauppauge expansion supported NYDOT’s goal to increase natural gas use as a vehicle fuel and brought additional revenue to the state of $0.05 per gasoline gallon equivalent. Clean Energy expanded the Hauppauge volumetric gas flow rate from 15 to 2,000 scfm and opened the station within four months.Smithtown entered into an agreement on fuel pricing with Clean Energy through 2013. CNG costs for the refuse trucks started at $2.33 per diesel gallon equivalent (DGE) through 2008 and increase each year to conclude at $2.94 per DGE in 2013. The contracted CNG price could decrease if the price differential between diesel and CNG goes above a set threshold.

“Controlling refuse collection costs for town residents was the primary reason Smithtown chose CNG,” explained the coordinator of the Greater Long Island Clean Cities Coalition. “The commitment from Clean Energy to set a stable fuel price was very important.” Switching to CNG provides environmental and energy-security benefits for Smithtown.

The CNG refuse trucks are projected over the life of the contract to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides by 265 tons and particulate matter by 15 tons. Smithtown also expects to displace more than 1.5 million DGE of petroleum-based fuel.The benefits are amplified when other towns adopt a similar strategy. Smithtown’s success inspired nearby Brookhaven to plan the deployment of 67 CNG trucks in 2009 in a similar effort.

Clean Cities inspired Smithtown’s move to CNG. In May 2006, Russell Barnett, Smithtown’s Environmental Protection Director, saw a Clean Cities alternative fuel presentation at the Federation of New York Solid Waste Associations Solid Waste/Recycling Conference & Trade Show in Bolton Landing, New York. The presentation persuaded him that CNG was the best choice for Smithtown’s refuse fleet. For more information, contact Russell Barnett.

Source: United States Department of Energy (DOE)

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