By Justin Cox
Killeen Daily Herald
Notice to ZEROS skeptics: you have the floor.
Inventor Steve Clark will brief the Killeen City Council at Tuesday's 4 p.m. workshop on the zero-emission power plant proposed for Killeen. The waste-to-energy power plant will be the first of its kind to implement Clark's patented Zero-Emission Energy Recycling Oxidation System, or ZEROS, technology, designed to use municipal solid waste to fuel an emission-free reaction in a 50-megawatt power plant intended to primarily service Fort Hood.
Joining Clark will be Dr. Allan Jones, former director of the Blackland Experiment Station in Temple, who currently serves as the Director of the Texas Water Resources Institute. The two will answer questions about the power plant, which received approval for a $200 million bond to fund the project June 19.
"Anyone who is skeptical, whether they're hostile or not, is welcome to come," Jones said Thursday. "That's why we set this thing up."
Jones said the technology in this proposed plant has been tested repeatedly by chemical engineers at A&M, and the economic feasibility has been analyzed by the school's economics experts.
The two also plan to conduct a similar briefing with the Copperas Cove City Council later Tuesday night.
While 87 waste-to-energy plants are in operation in the U.S., none have been built in the past 10 years. According to the Texas Energy Report released in May by the comptroller's office, power plants like this are more common in Europe and Japan, which are home to several hundred plants of this type. But all these plants incinerate waste to produce electricity, a process that releases harmful contaminants into the environment.
Clark's ZEROS technology oxidizes waste instead of incinerating it by using pure oxygen instead of normal air. The process burns at temperatures hot enough to totally break down all organic material. In the end, waste goes in and byproducts are captured for resale. There is no smokestack, which means that it produces no harmful emissions, and is not regulated by the EPA.
Too good to be true?
Clark developed the technology through his business, Oilwell Control Services, which he founded in 1974. In the 1980s, that company was charged to clean up a massive 200,000-barrell oil spill caused when lightning struck an oil tank near the California coastline just north of the Ventura River.
The company was mandated to do an in-place cleanup good enough to meet EPA standards, but produce air or water emissions. That meant it had to be done without incineration, and it couldn't be removed and taken to a landfill.
Clark said he formulated a system which worked for 1,000 consecutive days at the site and was certified to all EPA regulations.
"We were certified non-incinerating, non-emitting, and 100 percent destruction removal, which no other technology has ever reached," Clark said May 29 at Killeen City Hall. "If you'd been up as many nights around the world fighting something, you wouldn't say 'Too good to be true.' It's a natural evolution of the need to resolve a problem."
Texas A&M connection
Don't believe it? Neither did scientists and chemical engineers at Texas A&M, or engineers with TXU and other utilities. They all conducted independent research testing Clark's technology. Their findings concluded the technology works.
Economists at A&M have tested the financial feasibility reports, which claim that the byproducts of the system are profitable rather than harmful – more profitable than even the sale of the electricity in such facilities.
Clark's connection to A&M began with William A. McKenzie, a former chairman of the Texas A&M Board of Regents.
Clark said McKenzie is his longtime friend and business partner, and pulled him out of retirement after a bout with cancer nearly a decade ago sidelined him. Clark said McKenzie pushed him to develop a commercial application for ZEROS and to use Texas A&M as a conduit to validate and expand on the research.
To honor McKenzie, Clark made a $2 million gift pledge to Texas A&M through the ZEROS Energy and Water Alliance, a 501(c)3 nonprofit foundation designed to promote environmental education and research.
Clark said the gift, pledged in 2007, is not fully-funded, but is on schedule.
Not seeking local funding
While Clark may be encouraging the public to donate to nonprofit organizations like his foundation, he said his group has no intention of seeking funds for the plant in the Killeen area.
The Gulf Coast Waste Disposal Authority is a state-authorized company that issues industrial and tax free bonds for companies that are doing waste remediation and disposal projects. A subsidiary of that company issued the $200 million in bonds to Clark's company June 19.
Clark has backed up his claim with money, which he said is a firm statement about his company's viability.
"The county provides the fuel, the military provides the power purchase agreement – (with those two factors) you've got the support for a debt service group," Clark said. "The mechanism used to borrow the money is through a bond. The bond is insured in this case, and it's issued by an authority that has nothing to do with Killeen or Fort Hood."
Speculation in the Killeen area this past week brought rumors that ZEROS representatives have been soliciting investors for the project in the Killeen area.
Thursday, Clark emphatically denied those rumors.
"We're not seeking local investment ? I can tell you this, unequivocally right now: if somebody is seeking investment in the community right now, it's a scam and a fraud," Clark said. "It's not coming from us, it's not related to us, it's not associated with us. We are not opening investments for that particular project."
Not all ZEROS are equal
So should there be a concern about such fraudulent solicitors?
Clark's company has a history of defending its trademark in federal court in Harris County.
Clark's trademark of ZEROS remains haunted by a history of fraudulent claims of businesses carrying similar names, but no legal standing.
ZEROS, Inc. is Clark's official company name. And ZEROS, Inc. is not ZEROS USA, Inc.
Any thrifty individual with a computer and access to the Internet can uncover the filings of the Securities and Exchange Commission made in the late 1990s by ZEROS USA.
Clark founded ZEROS USA in 1996, then sold it to an investment group in August of that year.
Clark ended his affiliation with the company at that time, nearly 12 years ago.
"They got involved in building a public company rather than marketing ZEROS plants and modified the license to make it look like it was something else," Clark said. "They made a bunch of bogus securities filings, were ultimately sued, the judgment won against them, and they ceased to exist sometime in 1999."
Clark noted that his name is mentioned during the formation of the company and in many subsequent documents, but does not include his signature.
Nor is his signature found anywhere in the 800-plus pages of filings, which conspicuously end in 1999.
"All I can say is that they are not, nor have they ever been, authorized ZEROS representatives," Clark said. "They're not licensees, they're not shareholders, at the very best they're scam artists trying to make a quick buck."
"They do not have the physical, technical capacity to deliver a ZEROS system and they have not acquired a license, and they're not a valid licensee, and that was settled by judgement in federal district court in 1999," he said.
Corporate filings obtained from the secretary of state's office indicate ZEROS USA was involuntarily dissolved by the government.
The remaining members of the board of directors of ZEROS USA have a lengthy record of similar corporate failures filed with the Secretary of State's office. Many of these failed corporations are varying incarnations bearing the ZEROS name. Some of the companies forfeited their existence, others involuntarily dissolved. None are currently classified in good standing by the state.
The filings with Clark's name and signature remain the only exceptions. They include ZEST-TX, LLC, the company created to produce the Killeen project; ZEROS, Inc., his primary company; and ZEROS Energy and Water Alliance, the nonprofit foundation.
An official with the attorney general's office reported it had no record of consumer complaint against Clark or his company.
"Don't relate other people's activities with ZEROS, because they're not ZEROS," Clark said. "We've kept it (the investment group) as a very, very tightly controlled group for that exact reason."
House District 54 Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, who has championed the project and helped bring it to Killeen, said he understands the technology is new and holds no guarantee of success. But that's part of doing business, he said.
"I'm a businessman. I've started businesses, some of them have worked, some of them are failed," Aycock said. "As long as I don't see public money or shady investors, I'm fine allowing business to proceed. That's what America is about, trying to find innovative ways of doing things. Only one in five succeed, remember."
Meanwhile, Killeen City Manager Connie Green will appoint an internal project development team for the city. Director of Solid Waste Wayne McBride will be the chair of that group. McBride said Friday he will work as a liaison and be the primary point of contact with ZEROS representatives.
Temple City Manager David Blackburn said the city has held several discussions with representatives from ZEROS, and they have interest in continuing those discussions. But there is no public show of support as yet, and no representatives from the city plan to take part in Tuesday's meetings.
Contact Justin Cox at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7568.
IF YOU GO
Steve Clark and Allan Jones will meet with the Killeen City Council during its workshop session in the large conference room of the Utility Collections building, 210 West Avenue C at 4 p.m. Tuesday.
The Copperas Cove City Council is expected to be briefed about ZEROS before its regular city council meeting Tuesday at the Copperas Cove council chambers, 204 E. Robertson Ave., at 7 p.m.