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HB10-1125: It’s a Dirty Job, So Colo. Panel Approves Regulating Grease

By Debi Brazzale, COLORADO NEWS AGENCY

A panel of lawmakers split their vote along party lines today over whether to regulate the collection and disposal of grease—the kind found in restaurants and other facilities that use cooking oil.  The Senate Transportation and Energy panel voted 4-3 in favor of the measure despite some objections from the “no” votes that the measure didn’t go far enough in addressing the issue.

Yellow grease is the end result of oil that has been used in cooking that is still relatively pure.  Brown grease, or trap grease, is oil that has been contaminated with food waste, detergents, or any other non-food product.  It is currently illegal to dump grease of substantial quantities.

Senate-sponsor Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village, is primarily interested in creating the new regulatory structure under the Department of Health because yellow grease is becoming a newly sought-after commodity in the production of biofuels.  Environmental concerns are also a motivating factor for Schwartz, especially with brown grease, which is costly to collect and dispose of, but has little monetary value.   Yellow grease is often collected for free.

“We are realizing the value of this commodity—the yellow grease—and want to make sure that it receives the proper oversight,” said Schwartz.  “I think Colorado should take some leadership in creating a greater percentage of biodiesel fuel,” said Schwartz.

House Bill 1125 would, for the first time, regulate the businesses that collect and process any kind of grease for disposal by requiring them to register with the state and pay a registration fee, keep records of the quantities handled, and display a permit decal.

A few other states have regulatory frameworks in place for grease collection, disposal, and treatment. Some in the industry would welcome if Colorado followed suit, such as Aaron Perry, the CEO of Rocky Mountain Sustainable Enterprises.

“Colorado is really in the dark ages right now in respect to these two streams,” said Perry.

Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud, questioned the purpose of the regulation that he said lacks any real oversight or incentives to collect and dispose of the grease properly.

“Quite frankly this just looks like a way for us to get our fingers in the middle of a transaction between private parties,” said Lundberg.

Brown-grease hauler Rich Kowalis agrees that the industry needs to be regulated but does not support the bill because it treats yellow and brown grease the same.

The fees paid to the facilities to dispose of the brown grease can run into the tens of thousands of dollars, and without regulation that tracks how much grease is collected and subsequently disposed of, Kowalis argues the temptation is too great for some haulers to not play by the rules.

“I pick up the bad stuff (brown grease) and then I have to find somebody who wants it,” said Kowalis. “ They (the legislatiors) don’t understand my industry and what I am trying to compete against, which is the haulers who don’t want to pay the dump fee.”

Republican Senator Bill Cadman of Colorado Springs agrees with Kowalis.

There’s nothing in this regulation—under it’s current form in the bill—that would prevent illegal dumping,” said Cadman.

Approximately 7-10 million gallons of  yellow grease are collected every year in Colorado and a dozen or so companies will treat it.

The bill will now make one more stop in the Senate  Appropriations Committee before it reaches the Senate floor for debate.

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