Assembly Democrats Propose Landfill Limits, Hauler Fees
By Craig Timberg
The Democrats, who had been slow to respond to growing calls for new restrictions on importing other states' garbage, said their plan goes even further than the one pushed by Gov. James S. Gilmore III (R).
The issue has dominated the first two weeks of the legislative session, especially since New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani declared that Virginia had a responsibility to take his city's garbage. Gilmore, in his State of the Commonwealth address, proposed banning garbage barges and capping the amount of waste flowing into the state's seven giant privately owned dumps.
Waste Management Inc., the nation's biggest trash disposal firm, has proposed sending up to three barges a week to Virginia, starting in the spring. Each would contain up to 6,000 tons of garbage to be dumped in a Charles City County landfill.
Today, on the final day to submit bills for this session, Sen. Stanley C. Walker (D-Norfolk) announced the Democratic plan, and Gilmore and Sen. William T. Bolling (R-Hanover) renewed the Republican call for new limits on garbage imports.
Walker said that although he favors the proposals by Gilmore and Bolling, "I just think we need to go farther than that."
Gilmore's spokesman, Mark A. Miner, declined to comment on Walker's bill, which was still being drafted late this afternoon. But Miner said of Walker, "His entry in this debate is a little late."
Bolling said Walker's bill is "just more of the same: tax, tax, tax. It does absolutely nothing to prevent Virginia from becoming the king of trash."
The waste industry's lobby in Richmond has signaled its willingness to work out a deal. Christine Meket, a spokeswoman for Waste Management, which operates five of the seven landfills, declined to comment on any particular approach today, but said, "We'll look at the specific language and work with the legislators."
Walker's proposed moratorium on expanding landfills might have little immediate effect, since no expansion plans are on the drawing board. But for the first time it would give environmental officials control over landfill expansion, because it would allow them to veto plans even after the three-year moratorium expires.
The new license fees for trains and trucks would raise costs for the waste companies immediately, possibly making the Virginia landfills less attractive as destinations.
Walker is proposing an annual fee of $1,500 or $2,500 per truck, depending on its capacity. The Department of Environmental Quality would determine the fee for train cars.
The ban on garbage barges has made its way into several bills from both parties. Some question whether it violates the U.S. Constitution's protection of interstate commerce, but the idea has broad support in the General Assembly.
Staff writer R.H. Melton contributed to this report.
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