A Senate committee passed a bill yesterday that would give state governors the power to restrict garbage imports, but discussion of a controversial amendment on solid waste flow control was postponed by its sponsor.
Washington sources said the sponsor, Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J. told the committee that he and Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, agreed that the flow control amendment would not be discussed in the markup Of the interstate transportation bill.
Instead of trying to get the amendment added to the bill, Lautenberg said senators interested in the flow control issue will meet and attempt to come up with a compromise amendment that will be added to the larger bill when it comes up for a vote on the Senate floor.
"We're going to have a hearing to flesh out the issue before we vote on it," a staff member of the Environment and Public Works Committee said. "Senator Baucus supports a hearing, and supports doing something right away, [but] the Supreme Court ruling just came down three weeks ago and this is somewhat controversial. You can't take something to the floor when there hasn't been a hearing."
The controversy surrounding local governments' ability to dictate the handling of garbage, and solid waste has been growing since the Supreme Court's May 16 ruling in C&A Carbone v. Clarkstown, N.Y. The ruling determined that flow control violates the Constitution's interstate commerce clause, raising concern about the ability of local governments to continue to use flow control as a tool in solid-waste financings and calling into question the creditworthiness of issues that rely on the technique.
Lautenberg's amendment was an attempt to remedy the uncertainty raised by the ruling, which was exacerbated by the federal government's lack of specific direction on the issue. The amendment was designed to preserve flow control programs already in existence for any type of waste, but would forbid the use of flow control for new commercial waste financings.
The Public Securities Association and other similar organizations have been lobbying Congress in an effort to maintain local governments' ability to use flow control as a tool in solid waste financings.
Earlier this week, the PSA said Lautenberg's "grandfathering" solution was not enough and further criticized the proposal because it did not allow for flow control for any new commercial waste projects.
Michael Decket, the PSA's director of policy analysis, said the organization is pleased with yesterday's developments in the Senate.
"Baucus and the committee have committed formally to address the issue of flow control. I feel that's a positive development," Decker said.