Pushed by four regional haulers, several Nevada legislators have introduced a bill aimed at allowing companies to more fairly compete in the solid waste industry.
Las Vegas-based A Track Out Solution, Las Vegas-based Lunas Construction Clean-Up, Reno-based Nevada Recycling And Salvage, and Reno-based Green Solutions Recycling hired Reno-based Argentum Partners to pursue the legislation.
While not directly named, the bill seems aimed squarely at Republic Services, which has been at the center of criticism and lawsuits in recent months in the state.
In December, Las Vegas-based attorneys James Adams and Puoy Premsrirut filed a class action lawsuit against Republic Services claiming the company is overcharging Clark County owners by placing multiple $60 liens on homes for overdue trash bills.
That suit came less than a month after four business owners filed complaints with the cities of Henderson, Las Vegas and North Las Vegas as well as Clark County about the firm, saying it is abusing its franchise agreements with the cities and the county to block out competitors.
All of this has emerged in the wake of October negotiations with city staff members about possibly implementing single stream recycling in exchange for a 15-year contract extension. (The current agreement expires in 2021.) Surrounding areas like Henderson County and Clark County have already made the switch to single stream recycling, leaving Las Vegas as the last municipality in the area to have recycling sorting bins, twice-a-week trash pickup and every-other-week recycling pickup.
And the efforts come six months after a report in the Las Vegas Review-Journal described a “glitch” in Republic’s contract with Clark County that “allows Republic Services to compete with companies in the private construction and demolition market while simultaneously allowing it to set its own rates for competitors at its Apex landfill.”
The issue is that Apex is the only landfill in the county and the agreement also allows Republic the “sole right to set and collect tipping fees” for its potential competitors.
Republic has maintained it has done nothing wrong.
“We believe our billing practices are consistent with the franchise agreement and our commitment to a community we are fortunate to serve,” Russ Knocke, vice president, communications & public affairs for Republic Services, said in an emailed statement to Waste360 in December.
Republic Services (or companies it has acquired) have held exclusive franchise agreements giving it sole rights to servicing municipal solid waste in the region going back more than 40 years. It’s had a franchise agreement with Las Vegas since 1985, with Clark County since 1993, with North Las Vegas since 1978 and with Henderson since 1973.
Haulers are allowed to compete with Republic in the construction & demolition waste market. That’s been the case since 2005. But because Republic sets the tipping fees at the Apex landfill and with the next closest facility located hours away, haulers are alleging its using its pricing leverage to give itself an advantage.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal has more on the proposed legislation:
The bill would require the franchisees to file their effective average dumping fee monthly with the State Environmental Commission, and the commission would ensure that the rates stay around those same levels regardless of who, such as a franchisee competitor, is dumping waste.
“The government isn’t telling what RS (Republic Services) can charge. RS can set their rates and they will moving forward. The state is simply making a calculation based on RS’s bids … so that everyone gets the same per ton disposal rate at the landfill,” said Argentum Partners’ Mike Draper, who drafted the legislation. “We are trying to ensure that RS isn’t picking winners and losers.”
The recycling mandate will boost recycling and hold the state accountable to meet its goals, Draper said.
The Legislature set a 25 percent recycling goal for the state in 1991.
“That bill tasked the Nevada Department of Environmental Protection with overseeing the recycling program. Unfortunately, because it is a goal and not a mandate and NDEP wasn’t given any kind of enforcement authority over it, the state has only met that goal three times in 25 years,” Draper said, adding that the bill also sets a new goal of 35 percent landfill diversion.
With SB315, the department would have the power to require counties to report their recycling numbers and form the regulations they would need to enforce the mandate.