Congress on Waste

The new 107th Congress has appointed key committee chairs who could affect the solid waste industry during the next two years. Here's a look at the key players.

Interstate Waste. Sen. Bob Smith, R-N.H., will head the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, with Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada serving as the Democratic co-chair. Smith is a strong supporter of the free market and has expressed little interest in taking up interstate waste legislation. However, Reid, who is concerned with the national nuclear waste depository in Yucca Mountain, Nev., could help proponents of interstate waste restrictions. Additionally, Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton from New York, a major waste exporting state, has been named to the committee.

Sen. Lincoln Chafee, R-R.I., will chair EPW's Superfund and Risk Assessment Subcommittee, and Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., will serve as the subcommittee's ranking member. During this second session as chair of the Subcommittee, Chafee is not expected to broach the subject of interstate waste.

In the House, Rep. Billy Tauzin, R-La., will head the Commerce Committee. Tauzin, who recently stated that the interstate waste issue has plagued the committee for too long, wants to resolve the issue.

Ohio Congressman Paul Gillmor, R, will chair the Subcommittee on the Environment and Hazardous Materials. Gillmor has supported interstate legislation in the past, but Ohio now imports and exports almost equal amounts of waste, which may temper his support for such restrictions. Notably, Frank Pallone, D, will serve as the subcommittee's ranking member. Interstate waste is a big issue in Pallone's home state of New Jersey, which is one of the nation's top three waste exporters.

Ergonomics, “Blacklisting” and Tax Credits. The term “blacklisting” refers to a procedure that bans vendors from receiving government contracts for reasons not related to the contract itself.

Bypassing several senior members of the House Education and Workforce Committee to become Chairman, Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, has been a strong advocate for business interests. Organized labor groups see Boehner's ascension to the chairmanship as unfavorable. With many Republicans upset about President Clinton's last-minute ergonomics and federal “blacklisting” regulations, Boehner will have little time to adjust to his new position.

The Senate likely will be less active than the House on issues of ergonomics and blacklisting, because moderate Republican Sen. Jim Jeffords, from Vermont will continue to chair the Senate Labor Committee, with Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., serving as co-chair.

In the House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Calif., will replace retiring Chairman Bill Archer, R-Texas, and Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., will remain ranking minority member.

The tax committees also have new leadership: Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, is the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, with Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mt., serving as the committee's ranking member.

These changes, along with President Bush's tax cuts, could mean a more favorable climate for proposed landfill gas and non-highway diesel use tax credits.