WASHINGTON -- A delegation of public officials firmly opposed waste flow control legislation yesterday and suggested that issuers pay off existing municipal bonds for trash facilities by imposing temporary local taxes.
The seven officials representing localities in New Jersey, New York, Minnesota, and California supported the Supreme Court's May 16 ruling in Carbone v. Clarkstown, N.Y., which struck down state and local flow control authority. The officials said that market forces should dictate where and how to dispose of garbage.
If flow control authority were restored, the officials' would be on the consuming side by having to pay high tipping fees to other districts for waste disposal. Also, they generally represent entities such as villages that have not been granted flow control authority in the past.
At a news briefing sponsored by the National Solid Waste Management Association, which represents the solid waste industry, the officials said Congress should stay out of the issue. Congress should not even grandfather projects that were financed before the ruling in reliance on a revenue stream from flow control, because taxpayers ultimately would be hurt, they said.
Flow control, which refers to the ability of municipalities to dictate where garbage is sent for disposal, has provided the basis for the issuance of billions of dollars of municipal securities, according to the Public Securities Association. The PSA is part of a broad coalition representing state and local interests that supports pending Senate and House legislation to restore flow control authority.
But the officials at yesterday's briefing said they are not adequately represented by these groups. "We are the silent majority of local officials involved in solid waste management," said Susan Young, director of solid waste and recycling in Minneapolis.
The legislation is being pushed by the National Association of Counties, the Solid Waste Management Association of North America, and others as a public health and safety issue, said Kay Martin, director of solid waste management for Ventura County, Calif. But it's really "a market share issue," and "the largest voices" in favor of flow control "are those already invested heavily in the solid waste business."
John Rooney, mayor of Northvale, N.J., said that imposition of a tax of $7 per ton for one year on generators of waste "would pay off all the bonding in New Jersey" and ultimately save taxpayers money.
Any elected official supporting flow control "is in favor of higher property taxes" to support monopoly tipping fees, Rooney said.
Bret Schundler. mayor of Jersey City, N.J.. said that flow control will lead to government monopolies for which "the temptations are great for corruption and patronage." Jersey City is paying far more than the $7 per ton needed to pay off bonds to support patronage workers and the political coffers of county executives, he said.
Other officials who spoke against flow control were Leonard Samansky, mayor of the village of Saddle Rock, N.Y., and president of the Nassau County Village Officials Association; Edward Hallenbeck Jr., supervisor of the town of Van Buren, N.Y.; and Warren Tackenberg, mayor of the village of New Hyde Park, N.Y.
The officials agreed that government "monopolies" created by flow control authority block access to competing waste services, which results in higher prices for consumers. Municipalities are deprived of using emerging technologies or policy options such as recycling if they are forced to send trash to flow-controlled incinerators, they said.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee, which passed legislation on Aug. 18 that would largely overturn the Supreme Court ruling, has not yet filed a report. But a Democratic aide to the House subcommittee on transportation and hazardous waste said the delay is not extraordinary, even though there is not much time left in the congressional session.
The prospects are dimming for action, one Republican aide said. But the Democratic aide said: "I think it's too early to say. We don't know when [Congress is] going to adjourn."
Getting floor time may be a problem for proponents. The bill first must go the Rules Committee because Rep. Bill Richardson, D-N.M., wants to offer a substitute amendment on the floor that would simply grandfather existing projects. Proponents want to debate the bill under suspension of the rules, which would mean one hour of debates with no amendments.
Draft minority views, which are being circulated for signature, said that solid waste projects built in reliance on flow control may not now be competitive, and they urged Congress to wait until any other problems surface.
The Environmental Protection Agency was mandated to analyze flow control by the 1992 appropriations bill covering the Department of Housing and Urban Development and other agencies. The EPA's report is due Sept. 30 -- probably after the committee report is filed -- and is expected to address the impact of the court ruling.