Motley Fool  Apr 29  Comment 
Year-over-year revenue and earnings per share declined, but revenue in the key base business increased 3%.
Motley Fool  Jan 12  Comment 
The environmental services leader enjoyed a successful year despite industry headwinds. The year ahead has its own set of challenges.
Motley Fool  Oct 31  Comment 
While the challenging industrial macroeconomic is proving more protracted than the environmental services company had anticipated, it did manage 4% year-over-year revenue growth in its key recurring base business.

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American Ecology (NASDAQ : ECOL) provides hazardous waste treatment and disposal services, mostly in the Northwestern United States. The company earned $165 million in revenues in 2007 -- more than double what it made in 2005.[1] This increase can largely be attributed to a contract the company entered in 2005 with Honeywell International (HON) to remove 1.2 million tons of low-level hazardous wastes as ordered by a federal court. This contract, set to expire in November 2009, accounted for 41% of American Ecology's total revenues in 2007.[2]

American Ecology disposes of radioactive, hazardous, and industrial-waste for government and commercial entities such as refineries, steel mills, and academic institutions. The company operates four disposal facilities in Nevada, Idaho, Texas, and Washington; however, since 2005 the company has invested in transportation infrastructure (with 541 rail cars and 2 transfer stations) in order to win larger contracts outside their immediate geographic areas. [3] This investment in infrastructure is partly the reason the company won the contract with Honeywell International (HON), as their cleanup site is located in Jersey City, New Jersey.[4]

American Ecology operates in the highly regulated hazardous waste industry. Federal, state, and other government regulations present significant barriers to entry for other competitors with an array of permits for transporting, treating, and disposing hazardous wastes. In the 1980s, Congress decided that states were responsible for providing disposal facilities for low-level radioactive wastes. Many states formed into compacts with other states to manage their wastes with certain service providers. American Ecology is one of those service providers and holds a monopoly over 8 states in the Northwest Compact and 3 states in the Rocky Mountain Compact for rate regulated disposal of low-level hazardous wastes.[5]

Company Overview

American Ecology operates 4 disposal sites, 2 rail transfer stations, and 3 non-operating disposal sites (which do not accept further wastes). [6] American Ecology was founded in 1952 and is one of the oldest providers of hazardous waste services in the U.S. The company transfers, treats, and disposes hazardous and low-level radioactive wastes for both private organizations and the government. The company traditionally earns revenue from treatment and diposal of hazardous wastes from several types of customer categories including private cleanup projects, disposal of waste collected by brokers, federal cleanup projects, electrical utilities, chemical manufacturers, rate regulated customers, refineries, and steel mills.

Customer Category [4] Private cleanup Broker Federal cleanup Other Industry Rate regulated Refinery Steel
% of 2007 Treatment and Disposal Revenue 31% 23% 17% 11% 8% 5% 4%

Since 2005, the company has been investing in expanding its transportation infrastructure in order to take on larger contracts outside of the Northwest and Rocky Mountain areas. In 2005 and 2006, the company invested $5.5 million and $11.9 million to purchase 541 rail cars. [3] Partly due to this investment, the company won a 1.2 million ton waste contract with Honeywell to transfer wastes from their Jersey City, New Jersey location. This contract, set to expire in November 2009, accounted for 41% of American Ecology's total revenues in 2007.[2] Transportation-related revenue for this type of project can easily account for as much as 75% of total project revenue.[7]

Business and Financial Metrics

American Ecology's Total Revenue, Net Income, and Profit Margin from 2003-2007
American Ecology's Total Revenue, Net Income, and Profit Margin from 2003-2007[1]

In 2007, American Ecology increased total revenues by 42% to $165.5 million compared to $116.8 million for 2006. [8] The 2007 revenues also represent more than double the revenues earned by the company in 2005. [8] That said, the company has seen a decline in its profit margin for three subsequent years starting from a high of 41.33% in 2004 and falling to a low of 11.72% in 2007.[8] This coincides with a three year increase in transportation costs for the company, starting at $22 million and 28.1% of revenue in 2005 and growing to $79 million and 47.9% of revenue in 2007.[8]

American Ecology has no significant long term debt, and as of December 31, 2007, the company had $29 million in working capital.[1] Over the past five years, the company has seen its stock rise from a low of $2-3 per share in 2003 to $20-30 per share for the majority of 2007 and 2008.[9] The company has also raised its quarterly dividend to $0.18 for the 2Q2007 after paying a $0.15 dividend for 12 consecutive quarters. [10]

High Value Customers [11]
2007 2006 2005
Honeywell International (HON) 41% 38% 9%
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers 6% 10% 27%

Two of American Ecology's clients, Honeywell International (HON) and the Army Corps of Engineers, account for almost 50% of the company's revenues in 2007. No other client has accounted for more than 10% of American Ecology's business over the past three years. [11]

American Ecology's Percentage of Total Revenue by Client in 2007 and 2005
American Ecology's Percentage of Total Revenue by Client in 2007 and 2005 [12]

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For rate regulated clients in the Northwest, American Ecology has a monopoly over hazardous waste services. Outside of this area, American Ecology competes with both large waste service providers and niche waste service providers for low-level hazardous waste and radioactive waste disposal contracts. American Ecology's main competitors outside of the Northwest include:

  • Waste Management (WMI) - Waste Management is North America's largest solid-waste collection provider for all types of waste disposal. Waste Management competes directly with American Ecology for hazardous waste disposal. In 2007, Waste Management earned $13.3 billion in total revenue.
  • Clean Harbors (CLHB) - Clean Harbors competes with American Ecology for hazardous waste disposal. The company counts 325 of the Fortune 500 as clients and operates six incineration facilities. In 2007, Clean Harbors earned $946 million in revenue.
  • Waste Control Specialists, LLC - Waste Control Specialists competes with American Ecology for both hazardous and radioactive wastes. Waste Control Specialists is wholly owned by Valhi (VHI) earns approximately $4.2 million in revenues, annually. Waste Control Specialists operates largely in the Southwest.
  • EnergySolutions - EnergySolutions provides radioactive disposal services for government and commercial customers. As a speciality radioactive disposal company, EnergySolutions' clients extend past the U.S. One of its largest customers is the U.K. government. In 2007, the company earned $1.1 billion in revenue.



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 ECOL, 2007, 10-K, Item 6, Page 20
  2. 2.0 2.1 ECOL, 2007, 10-K, Item 1A, Page 13
  3. 3.0 3.1 ECOL, 2007, 10-K, Item 6, Page 29
  4. 4.0 4.1 ECOL, 2007, 10-K, Item 6, Page 21
  5. National Directory of Brokers and Processors
  6. ECOL, 2007, 10-K, Item 1, Page 4-5
  7. ECOL, 2007, 10-K, Item 6, Page 21
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3
  9. Google Finance Chart for ECOL
  10. "Key Developments for American Ecology Corp", Reuters, July 1, 2008
  11. 11.0 11.1 ECOL, 2007, 10-K, Page 47
  12. ECOL, 2007, 10-K, Item 1, page 10
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