The following chapter gives an overview of the major issues that have made WTE such a controversial method to manage waste. In the first section a layman's perspective is given of the environmental issues associated with WTE. The environmental debate has been focused primarily on atmospheric emissions of heavy metals, furans, and dioxins; the disposal of ash; and concerns about the hazardous waste segment of the household waste stream. A lesser degree of concern has been raised about nitrogen oxide emissions. The second section reviews the legislative and regulatory uncertainties that face communities when making a decision about WTE. Of primary concern are recent amendments to the Clean Air Act of 1970 (CAA), the implementation of numerous state laws and regulations, and uncertainties about the future of the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 (PURPA) and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1980 (RCRA). Proposals to allow states to limit the importation of MSW into their states may also be important for some communities. The third section reviews the costs and availability of alternative management options--i.e., landfill, recycling, and composting. A brief discussion of financial uncertainties is followed by an overview of WTE technologies. The chapter concludes with a brief discussion of the barriers posed by the decision-making process itself.
Chapter 3 presents additional background on WTE in the United States. Topics include a history of WTE adoption; a description of the industry that designs, manufactures, and operates WTE facilities in the United States; a detailed discussion of the quantity and composition of MSW; and an assessment of current and future projected energy production from the combustion of municipal waste.
Chapter 4 presents the results of this study's aggregate socioeconomic analysis of WTE and recent project cancellations. Results of our financial analysis are presented in Chapter 5 and are followed by case-study methods and results in Chapter 6. The final chapter integrates the results of this study's three-pronged approach to assess the root causes of recent project cancellations. The final chapter also includes speculations about future trends and how those trends are likely to affect the long-run viability of WTE in the United States.