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Senate backs bans on interstate transport of solid waste.

Following days of behind-the-scenes negotiations and resounding defeat (31-60) of an amendment to strip local governments of decision-making authority, the Senate approved S. 2877, a measure authorizing bans and restrictions on the interstate transportation of municipal solid waste.

The measure, sponsored by Senators Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Dan Coats (R-Ind.), would authorize the Governor--only upon the receipt of a written request from a unit of local government and the solid waste management authority, if any--to restrict or limit the amount of municipal solid waste that may be shipped from out-of state for disposal in the host community.

According to recent statistics compiled by the National Solid Waste Management Association, 43 states currently export waste and 42 states receive shipments of out-of-state waste.

An attempt by Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to grant governors the absolute authority--that is, without a request from local governments or without any local government participation in the decision-making process--to ban or restrict importation of municipal solid waste was defeated by 31-60. "Every Senator who votes against this amendment is going to rue the day when their state is, in effect, ruined by some local government saying, 'We will take whatever garbage you want to bring."' Reid said.

Opponents of Reid's amendment expressed concerns that giving governors the authority to ban imports of municipal solid waste "could be to potentially slam the door on the transportation of solid waste in our country overnight." Furthermore, as Sen. Baucus pointed out, while "solid waste disposal is essentially a very local problem . . . states and governors still have tremendous authority and control over [disposal] sites in their own states."

As approved by the Senate, governors would have authority to "freeze" out-of-state shipments of municipal solid waste under private contract at 1991 or 1992 levels, whichever is less. Beginning in 1998, in any state receiving more than one million tons of out-of-state waste, and if requested by the affected local government, a governor may also restrict total shipments of out-of-state waste to 20 percent of the landfill's capacity and to 10 percent of capacity the following year.

The Senate also engaged in significant debate on the subject of abrogation of contracts. Beginning in 1999, a governor may nullify a private contract for disposal of out-of-state waste in order to achieve the 20 percent of capacity restriction. Contracts for out-of-state waste entered into after June 18, 1992 may be nullified at any time. Or as Sen. Baucus explained, "new contracts must be host community agreements and the governor would have the right to abrogate new agreements that are not host community agreements."

Further debate ensued over which state law would apply (the receiving or the shipping state) in determining whether a contract (i.e., a non-host community contract) was "new." Ultimately, the issue was resolved by providing for application of receiving state contract law in determining whether contracts were "new."

In further action, the Senate also adopted an amendment proposed by Sen. D'Amato (R-N.Y.) redefining "out-of-state" waste to include waste generated outside of the United States. Bans or restrictions on out-of-country waste would have to be consistent with the US-Canadian Free Trade Agreement and with General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).

Similar provisions have been approved by the House Energy and Commerce Committee (John Dingell, D-Mich., Chrmn.) as part of H.R. 3865, a more comprehensive municipal recycling and waste management proposal. Full House consideration of this measure is expected soon . . .
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Author:Kocheisen, Carol
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Aug 3, 1992
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