FAIRFAX COUNTY DIVISION OF SOLID WASTE DISPOSAL & RESOURCE RECOVERY
ENVIRONMENT AND PUBLIC WORKS COMMITTEE
UNITED STATES SENATE
INITIATIVES THAT WOULD IMPOSE LIMITS ON THE
SHIPMENTS OF OUT-OF-STATE MUNICIPAL SOLID WASTE
AND AUTHORIZE STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENTS TO
MARCH 20, 2002
Mr. Chairman, Members of the Committee, thank you very much for the opportunity to present testimony on the Solid Waste Interstate Transportation and Local Authority Act of 2001, (S. 1194), a very important piece of legislation before this committee. My name is Joyce Doughty and I am the Director of Solid Waste Disposal & Resource Recovery for Fairfax County, Virginia.
S. 1194 is an imperative piece of legislation for Fairfax County, Virginia, as well as to communities around the nation. Today, I come before you to specifically comment on one provision of S. 1194, Congressional Authorization Of State And Local Municipal Solid Waste Flow Control.
CONSEQUENCES OF Carbone Inc. v. Town of Clarkstown, New York (No. 92-1402)
Let me start off by briefing the committee on the situation that Fairfax County faces. Municipal Solid Waste Management, or lack there of, was a major issue for Fairfax County in the 1980’s. Federal legislation in the 1970’s and the 1980’s called upon local government’s to develop and manage a comprehensive waste reduction and management plan. Not wanting to make the rest of the Commonwealth “Northern Virginia’s dumping ground,” Fairfax County developed a comprehensive solid waste management system which was centered around the construction of a publicly owned waste-to-energy incinerator. This system came with a price.
Fairfax County pro-actively implemented and engineered a solution to its needs, building a large waste-to-energy facility. The facility cost over $200 million, which was paid for by issuing $195 million in bonds. The bonds have an annual debt service of $20 million and will be paid by February 2011. The County has relied on the solid waste fees generated from this plant to pay off those bonds and to also pay for all solid waste programs, not just disposal. The County provides services to its citizens that are both civically and environmentally desirable. Included are those programs that do not generate sufficient revenues to pay for themselves such as recycling, education, household hazardous waste collection, hauler vehicle inspection, permitting, and enforcement. Fairfax County, and communities across the country, has been forced to compete with private landfills that do not have such environmental and civic responsibilities. The County in turn relied on Solid Waste Flow Control to direct an adequate amount of waste to its facility.
However, in 1994 the Supreme Court placed Fairfax County's, and other communities', flow control authority in question in the case of Carbone Inc. v. Town of Clarkstown, New York (No. 92-1402). The Court found that municipal solid waste is interstate commerce thus state and local flow control mandates violated the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution, which states that only Congress can enact such provisions.
The loss of Flow Control resulted in a steady stream of waste generated in Fairfax County being shipped on Virginia’s highways to privately owned mega-landfills that do not carry the civic or financial liability of managing solid waste programs.
Fairfax County was forced drastically to lower our tipping fees to compete with large private landfills resulting in decreased revenue’s. The County has taken both internal and external steps to reduce its costs and have applied reserves, intended to be used for ______________, but instead are used to attract waste to the facility. In FY 2002, our reserve funds were exhausted and the County was forced to finance repayment of the bonds with $5.5 million of the County’s General Fund. It is projected that the County will spend $50 million over the next nine years from the general fund to subsidize the loan payments. Thus, dollars that were intended to be used for schools, health care and roads, are now being used to assist paying the annual service and other expenses on bonds for the waste-to-energy facility.
Flow Control provisions of S. 1194 will allow communities to resume using flow control to repay debt that was established before the Supreme Court ruled against Flow Control provisions. It is difficult for a jurisdiction such as Fairfax County, and others nationwide, to develop long-term solid waste management plans that are environmentally responsible when the rules of the game can be changed at anytime
In 1992, Congress directed the Environmental Protection Agency to develop and submit a report to congress on Solid Waste Flow Control as a means of municipal solid waste management. The EPA  found that flow controls played a limited role in the solid waste market as a whole. However Flow Control authority played the largest role in financing and funding of waste-to-energy facilities. The EPA found in 1995 that 58 percent of the waste-to-energy market was supported by flow control. The EPA also found that flow controls provided for an administratively effective mechanism for local governments to plan for and fund their solid waste management systems. Allowing local governments to control the disposition of locally generated Municipal Solid Waste allows planners to more accurately determine how much waste has to be managed and how effective local waste management plans are, further explaining flow control as an effective tool for planning an management.
It should also be noted that in 1994 while thirty-nine states allowed for some type of flow control mechanism, not all communities used or relied on flow control. For example, in 1994, Illinois had flow control authority, but there is no evidence that any communities in Illinois used flow control.
With that said let me reiterate that S. 1194 does not authorize flow control for every community in the nation. S. 1194 simply states that communities that had relied on flow control before 1994 to finance debt on the construction of a facility will be able to resume using flow control measures until all publicly funded bonds are paid off. It also allows for those communities, who before 1994, relied on flow control to fund their waste management programs to resume using flow control for a limited period of time. This legislation does not authorize new uses of flow control.
Solid waste flow control is of critical importance to Fairfax County, Virginia and we urge you to move proposed flow control legislation forward. Interstate waste transport legislation, also currently under consideration, is linked to flow control legislation we believe an interstate waste transport bill should not go forward this session without flow control. The consequences of passing an interstate waste bill without flow control could be financially devastating to Fairfax County and other municipalities around the nation. If private mega-landfills cannot import waste from outside the state they will look more closely from within state boundaries and will further undercut the ability of local governments to effectively plan and finance solid waste programs. We thank you for your time and would be willing to answer any questions that the committee has.
The report was published by the EPA in March 1995 (EPA530-R-95-008)