DATE: February 22, 1999 / CONTACT: Lynn Landes, Director / www.ZeroWasteAmerica.org /215-629-3553 / firstname.lastname@example.org
TRASH WARS - ARE POLITICIANS SHOOTING SELVES IN FOOT?
For the second time in the new year, Governor Ridge has made a proposal that may serve to encourage more waste imports into Pennsylvania. In a questionable course of action, the Governor has directed 70 host communities to be contacted and asked whether they want New York City trash. This is regardless of whether they are currently receiving New York's trash. Gov. Ridge's stated intention is to hold a New York City deputy mayor to a statement the deputy made promising not to send New York City trash to communities who don't want it.
Some question the purpose of this course of action. It could not be used to break contractual agreements between waste disposal facilities and their customers. And, it may even recruit some communities for New York trash who were not previously receiving it.
"So far, in these so-called Trash Wars, the politicians of waste importing states are firing blanks or taking direct aim at their own feet," says Lynn Landes, Director of Zero Waste America (ZWA), and former member of the PA Dept. of Environmental Protection's Solid Waste Advisory Committee.
The curious New York City challenge follows hard on the heels of another questionable Ridge proposal, which is to put a 'permanent' cap on the state's waste-disposal capacity based on 1997 'permitted' capacity. This proposal may actually serve to guarantee the waste industry a huge market in Pennsylvania, rather than limit imports. Permitted Municipal Waste capacity (does not include all disposal facilities) in 1997 was 34,562,644 (used capacity-21, 618,856 / 63% of total permitted capacity, and unused capacity - 12,943,788/ 37%). If only municipal waste disposal facilities used all of their 1997 daily permitted capacity under Gov. Ridge's proposal, Pennsylvania could have 37% more trash disposed and 37% more trash trucks on the road than in 1997.
Gov. Ridge is also a proponent of the long-proposed federal Interstate Waste legislation, despite that fact that the legislation allows local communities to make agreements with the waste industry which can override any state action to stop waste imports.
"There appears to be a pattern emerging where under the guise of local empowerment, local communities determine the amount of waste imports that come into Pennsylvania, rather than the state," says Landes.
ZWA endorses the use of disposal bans as the quickest and surest way to stop waste imports. Landes believes that the federal court decisions have been deliberately misinterpreted in this regard. "It seems to be important for some politicians to convince the public that their hands are tied by the federal courts and that they cannot stop waste imports. But, that is simply not true," says Landes. She points out that the federal courts said that states cannot "discriminate" against waste imports. Disposal bans that apply to both in-state and out-of-state waste would meet the courts' criteria and still stop waste imports. << End >>