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NLC witness says local governments must control solid waste flow.

Mayor Earl C. McArthur of Ashford, Ala. testified on behalf of NLC before the House Energy and Commerce Subconmmittee on Transportation and Hazardous Waste, (Swift, D-wash., Chrmn.). He urged Congress to overturn recent court decisions restricting or denying local government control of the flow of municipal solid waste.

McArthur is also chair of the Southeast Alabama Solid Waste Authority.

"Disposal of municipal solid waste is a basic public need, and the legal responsibility of local government," McArthur said. It is only recently, "as private interests see new or expanded opportunities to make money," that the "issue of control over the management of municipal solid waste has become controversial."

In private sector legal challenges to the authority of state and local government to determine the disposition of waste generated locally or brought into a community, the "courts have not recognized the link between the responsibility of local government to protect public health and the legitimate role of local governments in supervising solid waste management," McArthur told the committee.

Legislative proposals pending before the committee-H.R. 1357 and H.R. 2649, proposed by Reps. Alex McMillan (R-N.C.) and David Minge (D-minn.) respectively - would clarify that controlling the flow of solid waste by either a state or a local government is not an unwarranted intrusion on or interference with the commerce clause of the Constitution, the basis on which most court decisions have denied state and/or local authority in this area.

The authority of local governments to develop and implement new integrated medical solid waste management programs - often as the direct result of federal and/or state mandates - is in jeopardy because of the controversy surrounding flow control.

In Alabama, the Southeast Solid Waste Authority, involving four counties and over 30 cities and towns, was formed in response to a state requirement for all counties and cities to develop a comprehensive solid waste management plan. Three alternative local ordinances developed by communities participating in the authority were overturned in federal district court on the basis that they "discriminate[d] against interstate commerce in violation of the commerce clause."

The three municipal ordinances from the cities of Headland, Geneva and Ozark, were drafted to test alternative uses of flow control authority. The Headland ordinance provided for collection by either the city or private haulers but required all waste to be disposed at the Authority's facility. The Geneva ordinance reserved all collection and collection contracting rights to the municipality. The Ozark ordinance permitted waste disposal at a facility of the haulers choice but imposed reporting requirements before the waste could be transported out- of-state.

While yet another flow control case - C.A. Carbone v. Town of Clarkstown (N.Y.) - has been accepted for adjudication by the U.S. Supreme Court, it is unlikely that all the outstanding issues on flow control will be resolved. "We believe Congress must address the issue of flow control by recognizing and reaffirming local government's flow control authority." Failure to clarify this issue, McArthur explained, "will result in a progressive disintegration of the existing municipal solid waste infrastructure, threats to public health and safety and potentially enormous additional cost to the public for managing our garbage."
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Title Annotation:National League of Cities
Author:Kocheisen, Carol
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Nov 15, 1993
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