WASHINGTON - The Public Securities Association is lobbying intensively for legislation to give local governments authority to control the flow of garbage within their borders.
The Supreme Court's ruling on Monday in C&A Carbone v. Clarkstown, N.Y., which struck down local flow control ordinances, "has put greater urgency on the public officials' side" of the legislative debate, said Micah Green, the PSA'S executive vice president.
The PSA is working with the National Association of Counties and other orgnizations representing municipal interests to convince Congress to pass a flow control measure enabling localities to require that solid waste be sent to designated facilities. The association has lobbied numerous congressional members and staff over the past several weeks, Green said.
"The issue is, who designs the method by which the solid waste is disposed of," Green said. The court said local government "has no business deciding it," but "there is nothing more fundamental to local government than ensuring that people's trash is picked up," he said.
Now that the court has ruled, "it's up to Congress," which should be motivated by public health and safety concerns in addressing the issue, Green said.
Green disagreed with the high court's premise that flow control is simply a financing mechanism. "It becomes a financing issue" when a local government decides to build its own disposal facility, "but you have to get to that point," he said.
In an April 29 letter to members of the House Energy and Commerce and Senate Environmental and Public Works Committees, the PSA said that many localities have adopted integrated solid waste management plans in response to strict state and federal requirements for comprehensive recycling and disposal programs.
"In many cases, flow control represents the only real option for local governments that face the difficult responsibility of safety disposing of a variety of municipal solid waste or trying to recycle a significant percentage of such waste," Green said in the letter.
"Billions of dollars of debt securities issued to finance waste disposal and and recycling facilities, backed by revenue from the disposal of flow controlled waste, are currently outstanding," the letter said. "Dozens of other projects now in the planning stage will be viable only under flow control arrangements."
Rep. Al Swift, D-Wash., chairman of the House subcommittee on transportation and hazardous materials, has put together several drafts of flow control legislation in an effort forge a consensus among private waste haulers that oppose flow control, state and local governments that support it, and other interest groups.
Among the contentious issues is whether flow control authority should cover commercial solid waste, a stance opposed by private waste companies but supported by local government interests, including the PSA.
At least one major private company, WMX Technologies Inc., is prepared to support local control of residential waste flow control and the protection of existing flow control laws that already cover commercial waste, a WMX official said. But WMX opposes coverage of commercial waste under any new flow control authority.
If a bill that protects existing flow control ordinances passes, "outstanding solid waste bonds would be largely protected," according to Marie Pisecki, a vice president of Moody's Investors Service. "It is not clear at this time, however, whether or not such a bill will be successful since significant controversy around flow control continues to exist," Pisecki said in a report on the court ruling.