Seeking Landfill Lull

IN AN EFFORT TO SLOW DOWN trash imports, a Pennsylvania state lawmaker has introduced a bill that would freeze all landfill permitting activity in the state for at least two years. Waste industry officials say the bill would place unfair restrictions on landfill disposal markets and would increase disposal costs across the state.

State Rep. Camille George introduced the legislation (HB-326) in the Pennsylvania House in February. The bill would authorize the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to impose a two-year moratorium on all applications for new landfills and incinerators, and for modifications to existing ones. After that time, if DEP determines that unused landfill capacity still exceeds six years, the moratorium would continue for a third year.

Although HB-326 does not specifically mention restrictions on interstate shipment of solid waste to Pennsylvania landfills, George has said that his bill is a way to slow down the flow of out-of-state trash. According to the Washington-based National Solid Wastes Management Association (NSWMA), Pennsylvania imports the largest amount of out-of-state waste in the country. In 2003, the state accepted more than 9.1 million tons of municipal solid waste and 1.4 million tons of other nonhazardous waste.

Tracy Pawelski, spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Waste Industries Association, a chapter of NSWMA, says her group opposes the bill. “We have always opposed landfill moratoriums and believe that all landfill expansion applications should be decided individually on their own merits,” she says.

HB-326 is “basically a reintroduction” of a moratorium bill that passed in the Pennsylvania House in 2002 but was defeated in the state Senate, says Matthew Maciorkoski, a spokesman for George. Current landfill capacity in the state, he says, exceeds 11 years.

Chaz Miller, state programs director for NSWMA, says the introduction of such a bill is nothing new. “We see moratorium bills like this almost every year, and each time they have failed,” he says.

John Skinner, executive director and CEO of the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA), Silver Spring, Md., says SWANA does not have an official position on the moratorium bill, but adds that the association supports the practice of interstate waste transport. “If this passes, it will raise prices for all Pennsylvania landfills,” he says.

At press time, the bill was under review in the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee.