As the Senate and House have struggled since the 101st Congress to enact solid waste legislation, shipments across borders have continued. Large exporters have continued to ship outrageous amounts of waste across state lines. One such State, New York has not opened new home-state landfills to meet its waste disposal needs. In fact, New York has seen an 87% decline in landfills since 1986. Now, we read the announcement that New York City is planning to close the nation's largest, and New York City's sole landfill, Fresh Kills. It is almost certain that no new landfill will be sited within New York City. Over 13,000 tons of trash per day will be searching for a home. Nearly 5 million tons annually.
Large importers, like Indiana, continue to be adversely impacted by out-of-State trash. Indiana has been a net importer of waste for over six years. Last year, we received our largest amount of out-of-state trash--over 1.8 million tons. But until Congress acts, Indiana's hands are tied--Indiana cannot control what comes across its borders and into its landfills.
Congress has come close to enacting laws, but close does not count. This year, with the impending closure of Fresh Kills, Congress must complete its work and send legislation to the President.
During the 104th Congress, I supported the Senate bill. Working with Senators Chafee, Smith and Baucus, legislation was crafted that earned the support of 96 senators. Later in the congressional session, it was approved by unanimous consent. Many came to the table with divergent positions, but we were able to work out an agreement. Unfortunately, we were unable to secure passage in the house. so here we are again--for the fifth straight Congress.
As the Senate, again, addressees the problem of solid waste, I plan to introduce legislation that includes the framework of the consensus, Senate bill, but which adds a few provisions that are necessary for importing states. (A letter that I received from our state environmental commissioner details the need for strengthening measures.)
First, importing states need waste controls on future waste shipments--not just existing levels. According to the report of the Fresh Kills Task Force (which was charged with exploring New York City's solid waste disposal options): "It is necessary to plan for the possible exportation of all residentially generated waste (13,000 tons per day) out of the city." Besides exportation, New York is also exploring the options of recycling and waste prevention, but it is unlikely these two options will greatly reduce the amount of waste that must be diverted from Fresh Kills. At best, it is unclear how New York City will replace this lost capacity. But it is safe to assume that the city will export this waste to traditionally large importing states such as Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Virginia, and other States. These States, already struggling under the weight of out-of-state waste, need tools to address this additional, incoming waste. These tools, specifically needs language and permit caps, would ensure that new landfills are not being built primarily for out-of-state waste. States need the authority to reserve disposal capacity for their own waste.
Second, the definition of host community agreement must be approved. In the last Congress, the Senate bill allowed a host community agreement to override all actions by a Governor. Since host community agreements were broadly defined, a Governor's ability to reduce out-of-state waste was limited. To eliminate this problem, we need to make sure that all future host community agreements explicitly authorize the amount of out-of-state waste to be received at the facility.
Third, importing States should be given the opportunity to freeze, and begin to reduce, volumes of out-of-state trash. This allows exporting States access to facilities, while guaranteeing the importing States can reasonably understand the volumes they will be expected to receive. This freeze and reduction will encourage exporters to look for home-state capacity. it will also protect the importing states' disposal capacity for local and regional waste management needs.
Finally, others will testify about flow control this morning. I have not been directly involved with the details of this issue, but I support the two issues being linked. It is clear that if these two issues are de-linked, neither will pass. We must address both solid waste and flow control, if we are able to pass a bill this Congress.
Let me stress, as I conclude my remarks, that I am not arguing for an outright ban on all waste shipments between States. There are examples of effective and efficient cross-border waste management. However, we must give States a role in making waste management decisions. Without congressional authority, States will remain unable to reduce unwanted waste transports. States, communities and residents, whose backyards are out-of-state dumping grounds, must have a say in the process.
Again, I commend you, Senator Chafee, and my colleagues on the committee, for moving expeditiously on this issue. I look forward to working with the committee to ensure that we afford real protection to importing states while allowing exporters sufficient time to make their own waste management decisions.