STATEMENT OF SENATOR MAX BAUCUS
Interstate Waste Control Act of 1997

Mr. Chairman: Thank you for holding this hearing on the question of interstate garbage shipments.

I regard this as a very simple question. Should a state, or a town, have the right to decide whether it wants to host a big garbage dump for waste from other states? Or should states and towns have nothing to say about it?

To me the answer is simple. People should have the right to say "no." And we need to give them that right.

Many states are looking to put their garbage somewhere else. In New York, for instance, the closing of the Fresh Kills landfill means that some 5 million tons of garbage each year needs a new home. The state can take only a fraction of that waste. So the rest, about four million tons a year, has to go out of state. To Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ohio or beyond.

Now I want to single out New York. Many other great cities have similar troubles. For example, a few years ago Miles City, Montana faced the prospect of becoming a dumping ground for Minneapolis trash. The 5,000 citizens of Miles City had no say at all in whether a "mega-landfill" would go up right in their back yards to take care of garbage from a city nearly eight hundred miles away.

Trash disposal is tough. But simply dumping one city's garbage problems on unsuspecting, perhaps unwilling towns hundreds of miles away is wrong. It is unfair. Every town in America should have the right to say "No."

But as my colleagues know, they don't have that night. State laws restricting out-of-state garbage have consistently been overturned in court as a violation of the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. So we need a national law to preserve this basic part of self- determination -- the right to decide whether or not a community wants to accept out-of-state garbage.

I've introduced a bill which I think achieves that objective. But it also strikes a balance. It will work for every community, in every State. It is very similar to the bill the Senate and House nearly passed about three years ago.

I hope that following this hearing, the Committee will have a business meeting to consider my bill. We need to get moving on this issue.

Mr. Chairman, that is why I thank you for holding this hearing. And let's get to work.