By MALIA RULON, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) - States importing millions of tons of trash should have more of a say over what other states send them, Sen. George Voinovich said at a Senate hearing Wednesday.
Voinovich, R-Ohio, introduced legislation this week that would allow states and municipalities to freeze waste imports at 1993 levels and immediately begin limiting how much outside waste a landfill could receive.
Ohio is one of the top importers of solid waste, along with Pennsylvania, Virginia, Michigan and Indiana. Lawmakers from those states say their residents pay higher taxes and environmental cleanup fees as a result.
"It's not just a matter of environmental concern, it's also a matter of transportation," said Sen. John Warner, R-Va. "Hundreds of trailer trucks come down from distant places dripping waste and causing accidents on their way to landfills."
From 1993 to 2000, the amount of waste shipped by other states climbed from 14.5 million tons to 32 million tons a year, according to the Congressional Research Service.
The amount coming into Ohio has increased steadily over the last four years to about 1.8 million tons in 2000. While that figure is below Ohio's record level of 3.7 million tons in 1989, it's still more than the state should have to deal with, Voinovich said.
"Because it is cheap and because it is expedient, communities in many states have simply put their garbage on trains, trucks or barges and shipped it to whatever facility in whatever state," he said.
States cannot ban such shipments because of a Supreme Court ruling that says sending garbage across state lines qualifies as interstate commerce, which can be regulated only by Congress.
"This is a significant strain on local governments," said Harold J. Anderson III of the Solid Waste Authority of central Ohio. "Communities across our state have serious concerns with trash from outside Ohio being disposed in our state."
Lawmakers from the states shipping out most of the trash said legislation to restrict the flow of waste is unnecessary because most communities want to import the trash for cash.
"We do not export to any community without a host community agreement," said Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y.
New York is the largest exporter of trash since New York City recently closed its last remaining municipal landfill, Fresh Kill. In 2000, New York exported 6 million tons of trash. Other large trash exporters are New Jersey, Illinois, Missouri and Maryland.
Bruce Parker, president and chief executive officer of the National Solid Wastes Management Association, told lawmakers that many states must export their trash because they don't have any place to put it.
"The reality is that municipal solid waste moves across state lines as a normal and necessary part of an environmentally protective and cost effective solid waste management system," he said.
David E. Hess, secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, said as long as states can continue to ship unlimited amounts of trash to other states there is no incentive for them to come up with a responsible way to deal with their own trash.