Taking a Breather

Early last year, a bill was set in motion in the North Carolina Legislature that would place a one-year moratorium on reviewing permit applications for new landfills. In August, Gov. Mike Easley signed Senate Bill 353, sponsored by state Sen. Daniel Clodfelter, into law, making the moratorium effective until Aug. 1, 2007. Although the bill was overwhelmingly approved, the Senate previously had sought an 18-month breather.

The state's Environmental Review Commission (ERC) will use the year to study solid waste-related issues, such as requirements for landfills in flood-prone areas, traffic and means of reducing the amount of waste landfilled in the state. North Carolina also will create an ERC subcommittee to examine economic factors affecting the location of landfills and the impact on residents living nearby. “This legislation will make sure that all aspects of the matter are considered, particularly the economic well-being of the state's poor and rural communities,” said state Rep. H.M. Michaux in a statement.

Near the time the bill was introduced, the North Carolina Department of Environmental and Natural Resources released an annual report detailing the steady increase of waste disposal in the state. It pointed out that for the fifth consecutive year, curbside recycling programs declined and that waste generated per person increased from 1.23 tons per person per year to 1.27 tons per person per year.

As a result of the bill's passage, at least five landfill projects — including some “mega landfill” projects — seeking state permits will be put on hold. DENR, however, will continue to review permit applications for changes and expansions for any landfill that was permitted by June 1.