WASHINGTON -- A compromise struck last month between a major waste company and state and local interests may not have enough support to prompt Congress to pass a comprehensive flow control bill this year, according to lobbyists.
The compromise is opposed by several big waste companies as well as key business and environmental groups, which could kill prospects for legislation other than a provision to protect existing flow control laws from a recent Supreme Court ruling, said one lobbyist who helped negotiate the compromise.
But another lobbyist was more upbeat, saying 90% of what happens in Congress occurs in the last 30 days of the session, and "it's never been truer than in '94." A major factor will be how hard business opponents lobby against the measure as they grapple with health care and other pressing issues.
"It's going to be close," said a third lobbyist involved in the negotiations.
All sides seem to agree, however, that Congress probably will pass a bill that grandfathers to some extent flow control laws and contracts in effect as of mid-May, when the Supreme Court struck down a New York flow control ordinance in Carbone v. Clarkstown.
The ruling threw into question the credit stability of issuers of revenue bonds that typically have financed solid waste facilities that rely on flow control. Flow control guarantees a steady waste supply that provides the revenue to pay off the debt.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee has postponed a markup of flow control legislation several times recently, and it now appears that action will not occur until after Labor Day, sources said.
The panel's subcommittee on transportation and hazardous materials passed a bill on July 21 that grandfathers existing state and local flow control laws, contracts, and solid waste management plans.
The panel left to the full committee the issues of the scope of the grandfather provision and whether to enable local governments to prospectively control the flow of non-grandfathered residential and commercial waste by dictating where it is to be sent for disposal.
There is a slim chance that the Senate next week could begin floor debate on a bill providing authority for states to limit interstate transportation of municipal solid waste, sources said. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., is expected to offer a flow control amendment to the interstate waste bill that is similar to the recent compromise.
The compromise was struck between WMX Technologies Inc., one of several major solid waste companies, and numerous state and local government interest groups and the financial community. Supporters include the Public Securities Association, the National Association of Counties, the National League of Cities, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and hundreds of local governmental entities.
At this juncture, some local entities support the package only "in principle" while technical problems get ironed out.
But the compromise is opposed by four other waste companies -- Browning Ferris Industries, Laidlaw, Chambers Development Co., and Union Pacific -- as well as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, and the National Federation of Independent Businesses. These interests believe market forces, not flow control laws, should dictate where garbage is sent for disposal.
Another major opponent is the Sierra Club, which contends that flow control leads to greater reliance on incinerators and landfills.
The compromise, which would be offered as a substitute amendment to the House subcommittee bill by Reps. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., Alex McMillan, R-N.C., and Blanche Lambert, D-Ariz., has been undergoing changes since it first was agreed to in July.
The amendment would grandfather existing laws, contracts, and plans, and let governments control the future flow of non-grandfathered residential and commercial municipal solid waste as long as they set up a competitive process for designating facilities.
The amendment has been narrowed to grandfather flow control only for those communities that had made a "significant financial commitment" after January 1, 1993, and before May 15, 1994, in developing solid waste plans that would designate facilities, the sponsors said in a recent "Dear Colleague" letter.
A competing bill sponsored by Rep. Bill Richardson, D-N.M., who opposes flow control, would grandfather only contracts and laws in effect as of Jan. 1 of this year.
The House energy panel reportedly is considering offering the Richardson bill first as a substitute amendment, then the Pallone-McMillan-Lambert substitute amendment.