Ohio Hopes Senator Pulls Through on Interstate Bill

INTERSTATE WASTE and flow control issues are reaching boiling points in Ohio. When Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, visited the Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio (SWACO), Columbus, on May 2, he assured SWACO and representatives from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of Natural Resources that he would go to bat for them in Washington this year.

As a proponent for the rights of local government, Voinovich reintroduced Senate Bill 431 in February after it stalled in 2002. Known as the Municipal Solid Waste Interstate Transportation and Local Authority Act of 2003, the bill would give local governments the authority to prohibit or limit out-of-state waste coming into existing state facilities.

According to SWACO Executive Director Mike Long, the bill represents a different kind of flow control issue. “This bill is a very limited bill,” he says. “It takes care of communities that have made investments primarily in waste-to-energy and, following the Carbone decision, have lost the ability to operate.”

Long says four waste-to-energy plants have closed in Ohio since the Carbone decision, and the goal now is to protect remaining facilities before escalating amounts of out-of-state waste threaten investments Ohio has made to keep waste from taxing facilities too quickly.

“We've spent hundreds of millions of dollars over the past 10 years developing alternatives for Ohio's waste. We've taxed our residents. We've built MRFs, composting facilities, education programs, and then all of a sudden, there's the potential that all this is for naught because of out-of-state waste. So this really starts at a national level, with national policy.”

Long says Voinovich's bill would allow a surcharge on imported waste that would support the investments the state has made in recycling facilities and other landfill-saving measures.

According to SWACO, Ohio imports approximately 3 million tons of trash per year, principally from loads originating from East Coast states such as New York. Long says the waste authority is fearful that Toronto's waste, which is currently being shipped to Michigan, could be redirected to Ohio because groups in Michigan are objecting to the additional 23,750 weekly tons of Canadian trash the Great Lakes State is receiving.

Both SWACO and the senator concur that the authority to legislate waste should be in the hands of local governments that have made strides — and created jobs — in the name of saving landfill space.

“State and local governments are standing out in the cold,” Long says. “We're not making any decisions, but we're spending lots of money.”

Currently, the bill is before the Committee on Environment and Public Works. Long says that movement among flow control and interstate waste legislation was stymied in 2001 because of the attention to national security and other issues following Sept. 11.

For additional details on Sen. Voinovich's bill, visit the Web site www.senate.gov. and type in S.431.IS into the “Bill Search” field.