STATEMENT OF SEN. FRANK LAUTENBERG
FLOW CONTROL AND INTERSTATE TRANSPORT OF MUNICIPAL SOLID WASTE
MARCH 18, 1997

Mr. Chairman, Thank you. In the last Congress, after the Supreme Court declared flow control an unconstitutional restriction on interstate commerce in the Carbone decision, this Committee passed and the Senate approved an amended bill to grandfather state flow control systems and allow governors to restrict the transport of trash into their states. The House failed to act. In the face of this gridlock, states and communities across our country have tried to adjust to the new, post-Carbone reality. Therefore, the issues facing us are entirely different than those that existed in the last Congress.

In the past, I have led filibusters in the Senate to allow New Jersey and other states to transport Municipal Solid Waste across state lines, at least until we could achieve self-sufficiency. At the same time, after the Carbone decision, I insisted that should Congress grant states the right to restrict interstate transport of waste, it should also grandfather existing flow control systems that New Jersey and other states established to provide for adequate intrastate disposal.

Given what has happened in the real world in the past two years, these debates seem somewhat stale. In the absence of any definitive congressional action, communities in many states that had flow control are now taking advantage of a more competitive free market system. In New Jersey, the situation has been a little more complicated. A State Court in New Jersey declared the state's flow control system unconstitutional pursuant to Carbone, but stayed its decision in anticipation of congressional action. Yet, despite the stay keeping flow control in effect, there has been considerable leakage out of the state, incinerators and landfills have lowered their tipping fees, and prices have generally gone down for consumers.

Mr. Chairman, communities in New Jersey are trying to adjust to the Carbone decision. The genie is out of the bottle. It is very different to reinstate flow control in 1997 than it was to allow its continuation in 1994 or early 1995. Consumers will lose. A free marketplace is bringing benefits to local communities.

At the same time, the situation is putting many disposal facilities, dependant on flow control, into financial difficulty. We cannot ignore those facts either. Further, Governors and Senators continue to argue the case for interstate restrictions on waste transport.

The crosscurrents in this debate will be reflected today in the testimony of our witnesses today. Senators Levin and Coats remain wedded to restrictions on interstate waste transport, although I do not believe these restrictions have a solid basis in our economic system or environmental analysis. Two of my colleagues from New Jersey, Congressmen Pascrell and Franks, reflect the dilemmas in New Jersey. Mr. Pascrell, a Democrat and former Mayor, supports a free market because he saw the benefits it brought to his city. Mr. Franks, a Republican, supports a regulated intrastate market because his district has facilities built under the flow control regime. I recognize the validity of both of their concerns and will listen to the debate with interest, and reserve judgement. The public policy judgements we make or fail to make will have significant ramifications. I look forward to today's testimony to help clarify the situation.