STATEMENT OF SENATOR GEORGE V. VOINOVICH
"LIMITS ON INTERSTATE SHIPMENTS OF SOLID WASTE"
ENVIRONMENT AND PUBLIC WORKS COMMITTEE
406 DIRKSEN SENATE OFFICE BUILDING
10:00 A.M. – MARCH 20, 2002
Mr. Chairman, I want to thank you for conducting this hearing today on a problem that has plagued my state of Ohio as well as many other states nationwide for a number of years now – the uncontrolled amounts of trash that other states are dumping on us.
I’d particularly like to welcome Harold Anderson from the Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio who will testify about the importance of flow control.
While interstate waste has long been viewed as a Midwest problem, two non-Midwest states, Pennsylvania and Virginia, have passed Ohio in the volume of out-of-state waste they receive.
Each year, Ohio receives well over one and one-half million tons of municipal solid waste from other states. Over the last four years, annual levels of waste imports have been steadily increasing, and estimates for 2000 indicate that Ohio imported approximately 1.8 million tons of municipal solid waste, a 63 percent increase over the amount of solid waste imported in 1997. While these shipments are not near our record level of 3.7 million tons in 1989, I believe an import level of nearly two million tons of trash is still entirely too high.
Mr. Chairman, roughly 40 percent of the waste that was imported into Ohio in 2000 came from 2 states -- New York and New Jersey. These are the same 2 states that Midwest Governors were asked by Congressional leaders in 1996 to negotiate an agreement on interstate waste provisions. The governors of the importing states quickly came to an agreement with Governor Whitman of New Jersey – the second largest exporting state – on interstate waste provisions. We began discussions with New York, but these were put on hold indefinitely in the wake of their May, 1996 announcement to close the Fresh Kills landfill.
Because it is cheap and because it is expedient, communities in many states have simply put their garbage on trains, trucks, or barges and shipped it to whatever facility in whatever state – anything to keep from dealing with it themselves. However, state and local governments that have acted responsibly to implement environmentally sound waste disposal plans and recycling programs like we've done in Ohio have been subjected to a tidal wave of trash from these communities in other states.
And while states like Ohio have worked to develop comprehensive disposal plans – like I set up when I was Governor of Ohio – the only disposal plan in effect in some states is to load up the trucks and move them out. Unfortunately, without a specific delegation of authority from Congress, such activity can continue in perpetuity, or until we run out of space.
Mr. Chairman, I have been working since 1990 to let our states have the right to control interstate shipments of trash.
I was amazed, that even though I was Governor of the State of Ohio, I could do nothing to stop the millions of tons of trash that were being brought into my state. The federal court system prevented me from doing what I thought necessary to preserve Ohio's environment. Barring that avenue, I tried to reason with governors of other states; those who exported to Ohio. Nothing happened. We made our case to Congress, and we got nowhere. All the while, the major trash hauling companies continued to bring the waste to Ohio.
So, today, we're no further along than we were when I first took up this issue 12 years ago. I think we need to change that by enacting comprehensive legislation that puts power back into the hands of Governors – and, through them, local officials – to make the decisions that affect their states and localities.
Yesterday, I introduced S. 2034, which is legislation that reflects the 1996 agreement on interstate waste and flow control provisions that my state, along with Indiana, Michigan and Pennsylvania, reached with then-Governor Whitman, whose own state of New Jersey is a large exporter of trash.
In fact, the provisions of my bill are consistent with the National Governor’s Association's long-standing policy, which was adopted by all the nation’s Governors. This policy, which was adopted in 1990, states that Governors must be able to act on their own initiative to limit, reduce or freeze waste import levels at existing and future facilities.
For Ohio, the most important aspect of my bill is the ability for states to limit future waste flows through “permit caps.” This provision provides assurances to Ohio and other states that there is a genuine need for new facilities and that they won't be built primarily for the purpose of receiving out-of-state waste.
This is particularly necessary because it gives states the ability to consider where waste comes from during the permitting process. As Governor I dealt with a situation in 1996 in which Ohio EPA had to issue a permit for a new landfill because Ohio could not deny the permit based solely on where waste originated.
This new landfill would have taken in 5,000 tons of garbage a day – approximately 1.5 million tons a year – from Canada alone. This would have doubled the amount of out-of-state waste entering Ohio. Thankfully, this landfill company lost its bid for Canadian trash business. Following that, the applicant asked that their permit be rescinded because there wasn’t a need for the facility in the state.
Unfortunately, efforts to place reasonable restrictions on out-of-state waste shipments have been perceived by some as an attempt to ban all out-of-state trash. On the contrary, we are not asking for outright authority for states to prohibit all out-of-state waste, nor are we seeking to prohibit waste from any one state.
We are asking for reasonable tools that will enable state and local governments to act responsibly to manage their own waste and limit unreasonable waste imports from other states. Such measures would give states the ability to plan facilities around their own needs.
One other thing that our witnesses will discuss today – including Mr. Anderson – is re-establishing the ability of states and communities to enact flow control for solid waste. As my colleagues know, flow control allows states or communities to designate where solid waste generated within their jurisdictions must be taken for processing, treatment or disposal.
The bill that I have introduced includes a provision to restore flow control provisions to what they were prior to the 1994 Supreme Court decision in Carbone v. Clarkstown. Doing so will give states and localities an important tool to make sound choices regarding the disposal of their own solid waste within that community or state.
Mr. Chairman, I would like to thank you for bringing the issue of interstate shipment of waste once again to the attention of this Committee, and it is my hope that the full Senate will have the opportunity to consider my legislation during this session of Congress.
States like Ohio should not continue to be saddled with the environmental costs of other states' inability to take care of their own solid waste. We in Ohio have worked hard to address our own needs with recycling and waste reduction programs to preserve our environment for future generations. It is time for other states to step up to the plate and do the right thing also.
I thank the witnesses for appearing today, and I look forward to their testimony.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.