Testimony of Honorable Bill Pascrell, Jr.
Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works
March 18, 1997

Good morning Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, and the senior senator from New Jersey. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to tesfify on this important issue. I am pleased to be here this morning to share my views with the committee on why I am opposed to federal legislation that would allow states to control the flow of solid waste. Fundamentally, I believe that flow control is a consumer issue, and in this case the consumer is best served by a system of open competition which results in lower garbage disposal costs.

Before I discuss why I am opposed to flow control legislation, I believe it is important for me to briefly comment on my background and how I came to adamantly oppose flow control legislation. Prior to being elected to Congress, I was an Assemblyman in the New Jersey State Legislature for 10 years (from 1987 to 1997) and served as the Mayor of Paterson for 7 years (from 1990 to 1997). it was during my tenure as the Mayor of New Jersey's third largest city where I gained first hand experience in paying for flow control. In 1995, the city of Paterson spent $11 million of its $137 million budget on waste disposal - roughly 8 percent of our budget, and we had to send the waste to an incinerator in neighboring Essex County. These precious dollars that funded this overpriced disposal might have otherwise supported additional fire protection, police, education and other important municipal services. And the city of Paterson in a lawsuit, Carbone v. Shinn, asserted that if it were allowed to pay market costs for disposal it would have saved $169,000 to $237,000 per month. Regrettably, due to waste flow control New Jersey has the highest disposal costs in the nation - $96 per ton.

Prompted by these experiences and the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Carbone v. Clarkstown, which held that flow control laws violate the U.S. Constitution, I along with a former colleague who is with us today, Assemblyman and Mayor of Northvale, John Rooney, became the founding members in 1995 of the Mayors' Task Force Against Flow Control because New Jersey maintained that its system of flow control was different from Carbone. The Task Force included mayors from 7 of the states 10 largest cities. We all agreed that flow control costs our cities tens of millions of dollars each year, that flow control stifles the operation of the free market, and that at the end of the day there is no reason that New Jerseyans should not enjoy the benefits of the free market in the operation of their solid waste system.

The simple goal of our task force was to ensure that municipalities have the right to send trash to the cheapest waste facility available. Mr. Chairman the imposition of solid waste flow control is a flawed policy that benefits neither the consumer, the taxpayer, nor the general economy. The only beneficiaries are local government officials and county utility authorities. And flow control is not necessary to enable governments to obtain bonds needed to build waste facilities. With flow control assurances, underwriters are willing to issue bonds for facilities that could prove wasteful and incapable of competing in an open market place. If underwriters do not want to support construction of a facility, that's a good thing. It protects taxpayers and consumers from subsidizing what would be a poor investment decision by the local government in the first place. Lastly, groups like the New Jersey Environmental Federation and the Sierra Club are also opposed to flow control - adding yet another voice to the already long list of those in opposition to flow control legislation.

The fact of the matter is that-flow control legislation is simply bad policy. Mr. Chairman, I am strongly opposed to federal flow control legislation. Local governments, small businesses, and households are better off without it. We should let the free market determine the lowest price, to the benefit of all involved. To borrow a quote from my former colleague, Brett Schundler, "Instead of passing flow-control legislation, Congress should bury it in the trash heap of discarded ideas."

Thank you for this opportunity to share my views with you.