Mayor Sylvester Turner may actually be the one we can blame for a $500 million-dollar state of the art environmental facility NOT coming to Houston!

And this is the “green” mayor?

Last fall, Houston was in the final running for a huge 70-million-dollar federal energy grant for a state of art environmental facility at the old Champion Paper property. The CERI (Circular Economy Remanufacturing Institute) facility was to be centered around a planned recycling operation to be run by ECO-HUB, the Houston company which had been negotiating a contract with Houston City Hall.   It is the same company that has now filed corruption complaints with the Houston City Controller, accusing the Mayor of making sure they couldn’t get the cities business.

Last September, Mayor Sylvester Turner signed a letter of support for CERI, and wrote Houston was finalizing their agreement with ECO-HUB. A few weeks later Turner instead announced a new recycling bidding process.   ECO-HUB eventually protested to Houston City Hall and now has taken its complaints about the Mayor public.

When confronted by reporters last week, Mayor Turner claimed the letter from last year doesn’t say it endorses ECO-HUB or its recycling idea, and that, in fact, he never supported the ECO-HUB project. Turner says the letter was meant instead to just help the professor at his alma mater the University of Houston.

Apparently, the folks at CERI thought it was a very clear promise negotiations on the ECO-HUB contract were almost complete. Hard to blame him if you read the letter.

Now, another letter prepared by that very same professor shows Turner was warned that $650 million dollars in bonds for the CERI project would be jeopardized if the City did not sign the contract with ECO-HUB by last Thanksgiving and that it would be nearly impossible to win the DOE grant without the centerpiece of the project being finalized. 

The City of Houston lost out on the DOE grant.

The ECO-HUB project was touted as a way to save Houston taxpayers 25 to 40 million dollars a year by mixing all trash and recyclables in just one bin, cutting the number of needed garbage trucks by two thirds, and ending the need for landfills. The waste would instead be separated and then resold into new products.

That was the idea.

ECO-HUB had been unanimously chosen by a nine-member evaluation committee during the Parker administration after the city won a one-million-dollar grant to pursue the idea. Ending the need for dumps seems like a green friendly idea, but Mayor Turner dumped ECO-HUB instead.

Last week the Mayor picked a European company to recycle Houston’s trash the old-fashioned way starting next year.  The contract won’t save money, it will cost millions. Up until last Spring, Houstonians weren’t charged a penny for recycling.

Now we are beginning to see how much that recycling decision really is costing Houston’s economy, and how much explaining the Mayor should be doing.

We asked Mayor Turner to respond to the letter the professor told CERI partners he had sent him.  City Hall ignored our request for answers, just like they did the bid protest filed by ECOHUB last December.

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