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Oakland law firm demands Windsor review garbage contract proposals

An environmental law firm that helped shut down Sonoma County’s composting operation is now taking aim at efforts by Windsor and Santa Rosa to pick a new garbage company to serve their residents.

The Oakland-based firm Lozeau Drury last week sent an 83-page letter to Windsor demanding a full environmental review of the various proposals the town has received for its ?10-year garbage contract.

Attorney Richard Drury, in a letter received just a few hours before the Windsor Town Council was set to meet April 19 to pick a new garbage hauler, argued the town had failed to review the impacts on air quality, greenhouse gases and neighbors of a planned facility in southwest Santa Rosa.

“There are few decisions that a town can make that have more direct environmental impacts than the determination of how to handle its garbage,” Drury wrote in his letter.

The town had concluded no environmental review was needed. In light of the letter, town attorney Robin Donoghue urged a delay until the town could review it and respond appropriately.

The move drew a sharp rebuke from Councilwoman and Mayor Debra Fudge, who viewed it more as a bid to influence the town’s selection process than protect the environment.

“I saw the CEQA letter as an effort from someone associated with one of the haulers to try to blow up our process, and I’m not happy about it,” Fudge said.

Town staff had prepared a lengthy report explaining why the contract should be awarded to GreenWaste Recovery, Inc., of San Jose. The town’s contract with The Ratto Group, the North Bay’s dominant garbage hauler, runs out Sept. 30. The company does business in the town as Windsor Refuse and Recycling, LLC.

The town’s bidding process is being closely watched by Santa Rosa because many of the same players and issues have been involved in both bidding processes. Ratto’s contract with Santa Rosa runs out at the end of the year. The city recently narrowed its field of bidders down to two finalists: GreenWaste Recovery, a relatively small company, and Waste Management, the nation’s largest garbage firm.

If GreenWaste wins Windsor’s contract, it plans to build a recycling facility on an industrial parcel on West Robles Avenue, in the unincorporated area of southwest Santa Rosa, near Moorland Avenue and not far from Ratto’s Standish Road recycling facilities.

If GreenWaste wins the Santa Rosa contract, it could try to process both Windsor and Santa Rosa’s recycling there, though how long it would take ?to get the facility at 2?98 W. Robles Ave. permitted is unclear.

For its bid to renew the Windsor contract, The Ratto Group, whose Standish Road recycling operations lack the proper permits and are under a cease-and-desist order from the county, has formed a new partnership with Industrial Carting, a Santa Rosa recycling operation. That partnership bid came in last of the five bids scored by the town.

Complicating issues is that The Ratto Group earlier this year agreed to sell its operations to San Francisco-based Recology, one of the largest garbage and recycling operations on the West Coast.

A Recology official who attended the Wednesday meeting said news of the Lozeau Drury letter or potential delay was the first he’d heard of either.

“It was a happy surprise, but it was a surprise,” said Eric Potashner, Recology’s director of strategic affairs.

He acknowledged any delay in the process or closer scrutiny of the environmental impacts of plans by other haulers to process recycling outside the county - in the case of GreenWaste as far away as San Jose and in Ratto’s case in Stockton - plays to his company’s advantage.

That’s because Recology plans to complete its purchase of Ratto’s company soon and win permits for the local recycling centers, which would make it more likely the company could provide hauling services with lower greenhouse gas emissions, he said.

The proposed routes and emissions of the different trucks should be looked at so decision makers have the facts they need to make an informed decision, Potashner said.

Whatever the outcome of the Windsor contract, he predicted the legal battle is just heating up.

“I think this is a precursor of what Santa Rosa is going to have to deal with,” Potashner said.

You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 707-521-5207 or kevin.mccallum@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @srcitybeat.

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