Senator Bob Smith
Environment & Public Works Committee
March 20, 2002
Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding this hearing today. Interstate waste and flow control are issues that have spanned the duration of almost five chairmen of this committee. With all that has happened in the past year or so, it is almost comforting that the more things change, the more they stay the same. In 1995, Senator John Chafee and I worked hard to pass an interstate waste/flow control bill. The House took a more free market approach and legislation was never signed into law. In hindsight, that may have been the right outcome, in particular as it relates to flow control.
Because of the promise of flow control, facilities were sited on an unconstitutional premise that a local government could mandate a market for itself. In 1994, the Supreme Court affirmed the unconstitutionality of flow control in the Carbone decision. With this decision came a cry for help from the local communities who feared, absent flow control, they would be forced to default on bonds that had been issued to finance the construction of waste management facilities. We heard testimony to that effect in 1995. It is now seven years later, flow control has still not been signed into law, and all of the talk of massive doom has not come to fruition. I do acknowledge that it has not been easy on many communities without the ability to exercise flow control authority, but no one ever said that competing in the free market was supposed to be easy. I do not believe that the federal government should be about mandating market streams, or allowing others to mandate a market stream where healthy competition already exists. We should be advocating open markets and consumer choice, not contracting and restricting. The need for flow control implies the inability to compete in a free market system - which means residents would be paying prices higher than they would otherwise be paying. It is, in essence, an added tax on top of paying for waste management services for anyone who lives within these jurisdictions. But when forced to compete, the majority of communities have risen to the occasion by charging competitive rates, streamlining operational costs and seeking alternative sources of revenues. I commend these communities for responding with innovation and good old American ingenuity. Now, if localities need to raise additional revenue, they can do so without compromising the free market mechanism. If localities want to impose a tax on their citizens, they should do so directly, rather than hiding it in Federal flow control legislation.
With regard to interstate waste restrictions; this issue remains a complex divergence of open markets and States rights. Many States, including New Hampshire, both import and export significant amounts of waste. In 2000, my State exported 54,000 tons while importing 255,000 tons. Towns across New Hampshire are uneasy with current and proposed imports. I understand their concerns and have worked to find a fair solution. First and foremost, we must be assured that ALL waste is being managed in an environmentally sound manner. We must seek creative, innovative and cooperative solutions to these issues without having to put artificial constraints on what is a free market. Absent legislation that is agreeable to all regions of the country, history has proven that having any legislation signed into law is almost an insurmountable task. As of yet, I am not convinced that any legislation before us contains the answer. I look forward to the testimony of our witnesses. Thank you.