Statement of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton
Committee on Environment and Public Works
March 20, 2002
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Unfortunately, as is often the case here in the Senate, all three of the Committees on which I sit have business this morning.† I have both a business meeting in the HELP Committee and a very important Budget Committee markup this morning -- which both directly conflict with each other, and with this hearing.† So, Iím trying to be in three places at once this morning.†
Mr. Chairman, in the interest of time, I will submit my full statement for the record, but if I could, I would just like to take this opportunity to welcome our New York witness -- New York City Department of Sanitationís Deputy Commissioner for Legal Affairs, Ms. Leslie Allan.† Thank you for being with us here today, Ms. Allan, and for so ably representing the City of New York.
As you all probably know, this week marks the one-year anniversary of the closing of the Fresh Kills Landfill.† I know that the closure of Fresh Kills has created a heightened level of concern for the states that many of my colleagues here on this Committee represent.
Let me just say that while we may disagree on what should be done legislatively at the federal level with respect to the issue of interstate shipments of waste, I think we all do agree that all states, all communities, and all individuals, for that matter, need to manage waste responsibly, safely, and in an environmentally sound manner Ė whether we are talking about transport, reuse, recycling, or disposal.
As the nationís largest exporter of municipal solid waste, I believe that New York State (and New York City as well) has shown its commitment to ensuring that waste generated within its borders is disposed of safely and responsibly, and will continue to do so.†
Both the State and the City require valid and legally binding Host Community Agreements before entering into any contracts for waste disposal Ė in other words, the City is only exporting waste to those host communities that have agreed up front and willingly to take it.
In addition, both New York State and New York City have shown a strong commitment to recycling.† Recent reports show New York State with a recycling rate of over 40 percent† -- which I think puts the State in the top five for recycling.† New York City has had a very ambitious recycling program in place, which we all hope will be up and running again very soon.†
Letís face it.† New York State, and New York City in particular, is one of the largest consumer markets in the nation. We in New York consume the goods grown, developed, processed, and manufactured in your states, and will continue to do so Ė just as we hope others around the country will continue to use and enjoy New York products as well.† When we consume, we create waste; and waste disposal is not cheap.†
According to a story last month in the New York Times, the cityís Independent Budget Office has projected that the sanitation budget for the City could rise by over 60 percent from 1997 to 2004 Ė thatís millions and millions of dollars that would probably go to outside businesses and communities.†††
In closing, let me reiterate that I believe all states and all communities need to manage waste responsibly, safely, and in an environmentally sound manner.†† I do not know that controlling interstate shipments of waste is the solution, or that it will help us to all achieve our collective objective.† I believe that New York State/ New York City has and will continue to commit itself to ensuring that waste generated within its borders is disposed of safely and responsibly, and with the willingness and acceptance of the Host Community.†
With that, I would just like to ask that the testimony of Mr. Michael E. McMahon, Chairman of the New York City Council Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste Management, be entered into the record.
Testimony of Michael E. McMahon, Chairman
†New York City Council Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste Management
Before the United States Senate Environmental Public Works Committee
†March 20, 2002
To Chairman James M. Jeffords and members of the Committee, I am Michael E. McMahon and represent the North Shore of Staten Island in the New York City Council.† I am also the Chairperson of the Councilís Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste Management.
As a Staten Islander I believe I am uniquely qualified to as a stake holder to state to you that solid waste management including the landfill of garbage is a regional issue and the transporting of waste across state lines is an activity which must be protected by the interstate commerce clause.† I implore you to take no steps and entertain no action that would limit the protections of the interstate commerce clause as they relate to the movement of trash to landfills, especially since those protections were recently affirmed by the Supreme Court of the United States.
As you are well aware, the people of Staten Island have suffered for more than fifty years the noxious effects of the Fresh Kills Dump, which finally closed in March of last year.† It was an illegal, unlined, unprotected dump and violated federal, state and city laws.† In order to keep this dump closed, the City of New York has developed an interim and long-term plan for the handling of its waste.† An integral part of this plan is the export of solid waste to out-of-state landfills.† These sites are environmentally sound and legal.† They are lined and provide economic benefit to the area in which they are located.† They are a good resource to urban areas irrespective of state boundaries.
Of course, the City of New York must develop and adhere to a solid waste management plan that not only exports its trash, but is founded on the principles of reusing, recycling, and reducing our trash.† I commit to you that the City Council of New York City will work on a plan to realize these goals.† But even when we adhere to environmentally sound practices, the City will need to export a portion of its solid waste.† The density of our population and the direction of rail lines as they exist require interstate export.† This export will only be to landfills that are legally operated and welcome the trash.
In conclusion, it is respectfully requested that the export and transport of solid waste is a protected activity under the interstate commerce clause and I urge you on behalf of all New Yorkers to maintain this protection.