Landfills: Host Fees Helps Create Landfill Capacity in Illinois

For more than a decade, gaining approval to site or expand a landfill in Illinois has been next to impossible. However, an approach used in Perry County may lead to less of a struggle in the future.

In 1981, legislation was passed requiring landfill developers for new or expanding sites to gain ap-proval from the host county or mu- nicipality. Nine criteria were developed to assist the local governments in this decision (see chart).

While this procedure seems relatively reasonable in theory, in practice, it frequently is used to prohibit facility development. At least five of the nine criteria require local of-ficials to make judgments on highly technical matters.

Since there are no standards by which the criteria are measured, public support or opposition often influence the outcome. As a result, fewer than 10 new landfills have received siting approval, Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) permits and begun operations in the last 10 years.

In Perry County, however, the use of "host fees," or royalties, proved successful in gaining landfill approval. Consider: If the citizens of a county or mu-nicipality where a landfill is proposed are given an economic benefit for ap-proval, the incentive may outweigh the opposition's influence.

Although Illinois allows local governments to im-pose tipping fees, these fees may only be used for waste management purposes. On the other hand, money paid to a local government under a host a-greement, generally, may be spent for other things. For example, schools, parks, roads and other activities typically supported by tax dollars can be supplemented by both waste disposal fees and royalties - sometimes in substantial amounts.

In November 1995, GERE Prop-erties Inc., DuQuoin, Ill., proposed a landfill and transfer/recycling operation on its property in Perry County. The company offered a host agreement including royalties to be paid to the county.

In April 1996, Perry County signed the agreement with the provision that its county commissioners would not approve the development until holding public hearings and receiving further application information and written public comments.

Later that month, the board conducted public hearings and with the help of a consulting engineering firm, evaluated the siting application. GERE purchased newspaper advertisements which helped gain public support. In fact, several citizen groups actively endorsed the proposal.

The board finally approved the new facility on July 9, which added approximately 30 million cubic yards of capacity to the state's total, estimated in 1994 at 362 million cubic yards.

On the state level, this increase adds less than one year of disposal life. However, in the southern Il-linois region where the facility is located, landfill capacity will be ex-tended by almost 23 years, based on the current yearly disposal rate of 1.32 million cubic yards.

The facility's service area is ex-pected to include Illinois and parts of Missouri and Kentucky. As a result, disposal volume may in-crease 2,000 tons per day. In a few years, when the facility reaches full operation, the county's royalty payments are expected to range from $500,000 to $1,000,000 per year.