Skip to main content

Company pitches idea of plant that converts food waste into energy at planning board meeting

By Howard B. Owens

A company with roots in New York, but currently based in Connecticut, is looking to build a plant at the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park that would convert food industry waste into heat and electricity.

"We make green power out of organic waste," said Paul Toretta, CEO of CH4 Biogas, while presenting his company's plans to the Town of Batavia Planning Board. "Once the digester does its thing, it captures methane and powers an engine that makes green power and puts it on the grid. The engine produces heat that can be used to heat Quaker Muller and Alpina, helping them cut their heating bill."

The cost of the plant is $15 million and CH4 has already secured a $2 million Cleaner and Greener grant from NYSERDA to help fund the project, but is looking to the state for more help.

Toretta said state officials recommended the company present its proposal to the town planning board because the state wouldn't get behind the idea unless it has community support. The state backing would help the company secure bank loans to completely finance the project.

"We're in a holding pattern while looking for help with funding," Toretta said when asked about the timetable for the project.

Once funding is in place, the plant would take nine months to build. The design is already completed because it's the same design used by the company for plants in Wyoming County and Ohio (for Campbell's Soup).

"We only build one plant," Toretta said. "It's the same plant over and over again."

CH4 would use local contractors to build and maintain the plant, which would eventually employ eight people full time, Toretta said.

"When you put that much concrete and steel in the ground there will be a number of people employed," Toretta said.

The plant would be expected to last at least 30 years.

"The project is upfront capital intensive," said Toretta, who is originally from Potsdam. "It takes 15 years to return the money invested to do this. It's a slow, steady project. You borrow money and it takes 15 years to make any return."

CH4 already processes whey and other waste from the Alpina and Quaker Muller (no whey comes out of the Muller plant) in Wyoming County.

A plant in the ag park would reduce transportation cost and the impact on the environment to truck it more than 20 miles away.

The plant would also help the Genesee County Economic Development Center attract more food processors to the ag park, Toretta said.

Chris Suozzi, GCEDC's VP for business development, agreed.

"It would complement what we're already doing," Suozzi said. "It would definately help with the marketing when you have a green ag park. What better way to market the park and bring in more companies?"

The plant would be set up so it could take any sort of organic food waste, including waste from products that were already packaged but were found to be defective in some way so couldn't be shipped to customers. Toretta said the plant could separate the food waste from the packaging and then recycle the plastic or metal containers.

The plant would produce very little waste itself, but what it did produce would go into the local sewer system, but with much less biological chemicals and suspended salts than could otherwise go into the waste stream.

The plant would also produce little in the way of odor, which is important to Alpina and Quaker Muller because the plant would be upwind from those facilities.

"If there was any type of odor, as you can imagine, Campbell Soup would not allow us to operate our plant there," Toretta said.

Mark Potwora

Here we go again....Another private company wanting taxpayer dollars to create their business..They state that ...The engine produces heat that can be used to heat Quaker Muller and Alpina helping them cut their heating bill.".....Let those two companies use their money to pay for it ..Who in genesee county will get lower utility bills out of this.....Let Alpina and Muller finance and help pay for it not the taxpayer...Just another corporate moocher.....

May 7, 2014, 11:54am Permalink
John Roach

I agree with Mark. Why should tax payer money be given so somebody else can have lower utilities? And it will not make a profit for at least 15 years, with no guarantee they will still be around then. And no mention that if they should close, they repay the taxpayer. They should be told, "NO".

May 7, 2014, 2:58pm Permalink
Emma Morrill

Surprise, surprise. Once again, the same old negative voices are first out of the gate to bash a potentially positive development for this region. I, for one, happen to think that this sounds terrifically promising, should it pan out; it would be fantastic for the area to have an innovative, cutting-edge "green" industry, like this -- an industry that would be very likely to create many good jobs. I hope that they get whatever they need to proceed.

May 7, 2014, 6:24pm Permalink

It's the cost of doing (and getting) business period. It's done all over, Batavia isn't an orphan. If Genesee County bought a horse that s**t gold bricks.....some people would bitch cause they had to feed it !!

May 7, 2014, 11:36pm Permalink
Howard B. Owens

Creates jobs, will help attract more businesses to the ag park, good for the environment, great for out county's PR. Shifts some of that money being stolen from us through high taxes back to our county rather than going elsewhere. Keeps us competitive with other counties for food processors. What's not to love about it?

May 8, 2014, 6:51am Permalink
Dave Olsen

what's not to love? At the risk of being a broken record, I've wrote or said at least 100 times, if the gub'ment doesn't stop picking and choosing who gets to pay less taxes and who has to pay more. It will never stop, only continue to get worse, more will demand a break and less of us will pay even more. Here's a favorite position of the lefties from a self-described progressive site, and I couldn't agree more. Across the nation about 92 billion was passed around through corporate welfare, while around 59 billion was spent on social welfare. Nearly twice as much (45% or so). But we hear from the commenters on here loads of negativity about the welfare people, that's Ok I guess. Personally, I'm not in favor of either, but let's get some proper focus. A friend of mine had a great idea, stop allowing taxes to be placed in escrow accounts and paid by the mortgager, everyone gets the bill and has to pony up directly. Landlords would have to break out the tax portion on the rental statements. I'm sure then there'd be a lot more if what you all think is negativity.

May 8, 2014, 7:29am Permalink
Howard B. Owens

Until the game is stopped, Genesee County must play the game or we only screw ourselves. We can't stop the game. We stop playing it at our own peril. I don't give a rats ass about national statistics on corporate welfare when it comes to what we need to do right here in Genesee County. The proper focus is: Genesee County needs this.

May 8, 2014, 8:05am Permalink
Dave Olsen

Obviously I disagree Howard. The authoritarian use of the threat of force to steal part of the fruits of my labor and then make decisions as to who deserves what, is wrong in any county of the USA. I don't think this is right for Genesee County but i Don't have much choice about funding it.
The proper focus should be Improving the lives of every resident of Genesee County.

May 8, 2014, 8:34am Permalink
Mark Potwora

I guess if we use Howard's thinking ,then we should all go out and take every single program the government offers..Suck every single dime we can and let someone else pay for it...This is big government at its best.........This is a welfare give away that will help Alpina and Pepsi...Didn't they already get their welfare payouts last year...

May 8, 2014, 11:40am Permalink
Howard B. Owens

It's going to improve everybody's economy.

And I'm 100 percent in favor of getting all we can for Genesee County.

This isn't like Dick's Sporting Goods where you're giving tax breaks that will ultimately destroy jobs and drag down the local economy. Building up the ag park benefits us all.

May 8, 2014, 11:45am Permalink
Mark Potwora

Well then i guess then we should all head over to the welfare dept and see what we qualify for....It can only help improve our personal economy....If we don't take it someone else will..

May 8, 2014, 11:55am Permalink
Mark Potwora

What ever you say Howard..You believe that government should hand out money to private companies or individuals ,whether it is to build plant or an apartment building...I don't.I see it as another form of welfare....No wonder we are the highest taxed state in the nation....

May 8, 2014, 3:32pm Permalink
Phil Ricci

I have never been a fan of the system, and I have fought against the obvious wastes, such as Dick's Sporting Goods, and I always will. That said, I will also support initiatives that redefine the area, and allow for positive growth.

I agree that it will take a long term plan to organically decrease taxes, and until we have elected officials that will make those decisions and take the county in that direction, we will not.

I like this. I like how this ties into what the vision could be for this area, I like that it will create good jobs. Do I like the system it's in? No, but I like this.

May 8, 2014, 3:52pm Permalink
Howard B. Owens

Mark, you love to misstate my positions so you can criticize them rather wrestle with real issues. It's easier.

In a system that puts New York businesses at a disadvantage, I support leveling the playing field. Genesee County needs jobs. You may not like jobs, but I do. I want to see people put to work, and in New York, the only way that's going to happen is to bridge the inequity gap between New York and other states.

To compare that with social services (a completely unrelated issue) is just a pure-T straw man.

May 8, 2014, 4:18pm Permalink
Mark Potwora

Did you or Phil read that this project will cost 15 million.They are going to get 2 million grant but that is not enough they want more..We all know they will get property tax abatements and sales tax forgiveness to create maybe 8 jobs..what happened to risk and rewards..and they are trying to sell this that Alpina and Muller with be able to lower their heat bill..So who benefits..Well the rest of us are facing higher and higher school and county tax..We all are having to to pay higher electric rates..Sounds like greed to me...This is not governments roll....How much should we give this private company..Phil you make a good politician..

May 8, 2014, 4:39pm Permalink
John Roach

Mark, do not forget, they will not even make a profit for about 15 years, if then. That means taking a loss on their income taxes, costing us even more. This should clearly not be approved.

May 8, 2014, 4:42pm Permalink
Howard B. Owens

I'm done arguing about this. I love Genesee County. I want to see us succeed. I support projects that will make life better. I believe the majority of people here believe the same thing, despite the drum beat of negativity so often displayed by a few.

May 8, 2014, 4:47pm Permalink
Dave Olsen

I love jobs and improving peoples opportunity to get them. I love Genesee County as well. I simply do not agree that corporate welfare is the way to go, and I am quite tired of being painted as negative by you because of that Howard. The other government loving squawkers on here too.

FWIW this project seems like a very well thought out one and I actually would like to see it built. I'm all for renewable energy. I bet the real reason they ask for these breaks is because they know they can get them. Plain and simple. If this is a s good an idea as I think it is, the company shouldn't even be asking taxpayers to chip in.

Phil is right, we need to vote in people with the stones to stand up and stop these malarkey. Some have paid lip service, but nothing seems to change, and in case noone noticed, taxes went up this year, not down.

May 8, 2014, 4:56pm Permalink
Mark Potwora

You were arguing ...i was discussing..John you are right,,,I never realized that those who don't believe that giving someone else's money away was negative...

May 8, 2014, 4:59pm Permalink
Jim Rosenbeck

If oppressive taxation didn't make NYS a hostile environment in which to do business, the Economic Development Corporations wouldn't have any rationale to bribe businesses to locate here. Want to get rid of corporate welfare? Lower tax rates for everybody. Lets stop picking winners and losers. We are told that the only way that we can have good local jobs down the road, is if we are willing to pay some of the millionaires bills today. Companies are being bribed with our tax dollars.The historical evidence indicates that many, perhaps most of the promises of good jobs to come later never actually materialize. I find it morally objectionable for business owners to build their businesses on the backs of the local residents. Especially when many local residents are having difficulty making their own ends meet. In my view, no man or woman or EDC has a right to take another persons money for redistribution to corporations. Call it what you like. Put a pretty pink dress on it if you like. At the end of the day it remains nothing more than petty theft.

May 8, 2014, 6:28pm Permalink
Robert Brown

This business venture is not one which if it's not built here will be built elsewhere. It's ultimately a matter of when this type of business comes to the area, who puts it in, and at who's expense (or investment). This company is in the business of plopping these facilities in every corner of the nation, and it is in the owners' best interest, not the communities' they go in, to get as much free funding as they possibly can. Taxpayers will see zero positive gain by government "investing" in this business. Zero. Our taxes will never be reduced. We will never see a rebate in any form. We will not see massive growth in the economy from this business. Ever. New York State has been playing this game for over 40 years and it has not worked other than to make the business owners boat loads of money, wealth which is more often than not taken out of the community to be spent elsewhere.

Yes, having such a plant in place might attract other businesses. Maybe. Yes, some jobs might be created, maybe. What the pay rates are for those jobs and who gets the jobs makes a world of difference. If the pay scale is not above the average pay for working people in Genesee County, it does absolutely nothing to improve the economy. If the people who take the jobs commute in from other counties, they take the wealth with them and do nothing for the local economy other than using free infrastructure.

If this is such a great idea, why don't the business owners knock on the doors of 13 millionaires in Genesee County and get each to fund $1M of the capital needed to complete the project? Taxpayers have already ponied up $2M - that's more than enough forced "investment" in the game.

Instead of kowtowing and perpetuating the nonsensical no-win game, let's change the rules and make the game successful for everyone. Lower everyone's taxes and make this county the most attractive county in the nation to live and do business.

There's no need to be negative - let's embrace this business, but let's make it stand and succeed on its own merit, not by forcing our already over burdened citizens with "investment" that will never yield a penny of return, except to those who have manipulated the system to their own personal gain.

May 8, 2014, 7:35pm Permalink

Authentically Local