Waste-To-Energy in the United States: A Social and Economic Assessment

By T. Randall Curlee; Susan M. Schexnayder et al. | Go to book overview

costs increased by more than 40 percent during the period 1982 to 1990. Second, state and local tax and expenditure limitations and changes in the tax-exempt market forced adjustments in the risk/return relationships necessary for successful finance. These adjustments led to more innovative methods of finance including leasing arrangements, adjustable-rate debt, letters of credit, municipal-bond insurance, and other third-party credit enhancements. Third, states and local communities have been faced with increasing demands for more expenditures on environmental infrastructure at the same time they have faced more difficult financing conditions. Federally imposed unified volume caps and severe restrictions on tax-exempt financing have led communities to adopt non-traditional and, in some case, more expensive methods of finance. In addition, the extremely large capital outlays required for some WTE facilities have forced some communities to make hard decisions about where they allocate their limited credit lines. Communities are sometimes forced to make trade-offs between funding environmental infrastructure and more traditional activities, such as housing and education. And although the costs of all MSW management options are expected to rise, the decisions of communities about WTE have not been, and will not be, made easier by WTE cost escalations resulting from mandates for stricter environmental controls.

The fundamentals of the long-term bond market are generally positive over the next decade, and, therefore, capital markets should show little strain in funding future expenditures for local environmental projects, such as WTE. The problem is whether local jurisdictions will have the financial ability and, in some cases, the political will to take on higher levels of debt burden. Large, capital-intensive WTE facilities can crowd out other local investments, and some small communities may face obstacles in accessing capital markets.

On the positive side, however, innovative financial instruments are increasingly available that overcome to some extent the financial obstacles imposed during the 1980s. Adjustments on the parts of capital markets and communities to new financial realities are likely to improve the financial viability of capital-intensive projects, such as WTE facilities. Although financing constraints will continue to be problematic, especially for those communities with questionable credit ratings, financial constraints are not expected to be a "show-stopper" as the overall viability of WTE is determined in the 1990s.


NOTES
1.
See U.S. EPA ( 1990a) for an overview of the projected costs of environmental regulations and expenditure trends for 1981 through 2000.
2.
Lovely and Wasylenko ( 1992) provide a review of studies of state taxation and municipal borrowing costs. Using a large sample of individual bonds, their

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