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Michigan lawmaker demands enforcement of Canadian trash treaty
Detroit Free Press

A Michigan congressman wants the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to prove it's complying with a bill that requires the agency to spend $1 million on enforcement of a Canadian trash treaty.

Rep. John Dingell, a Democrat from Dearborn, Mich., on Wednesday released a letter that he sent last week to EPA Administrator Mike Leavitt. Dingell reminded Leavitt about the provision in the funding bill, which President Bush signed in January, and asked him for a detailed account of how the $1 million is being spent.

An EPA spokesman said Wednesday that the agency will follow the law, but wouldn't elaborate. The agency is working on a response to Dingell's letter.

Dingell says a 1992 treaty requires Canada to notify the EPA for each shipment of waste entering the United States. The EPA has 30 days to consider how the shipment will impact the state and then accept or reject the shipment.

Dingell and three other Michigan lawmakers -- Democratic Rep. Bart Stupak and Republican Reps. Mike Rogers and Fred Upton -- amended the EPA's 2004 budget last fall after the agency's director of solid waste, Robert Springer, told a House subcommittee that the EPA had taken no action to enforce the treaty.

"It is simply outrageous that the United States signed this agreement more than 11 years ago and nothing has been done to implement the notice and consent provisions laid out in a very clear manner in the agreement," Dingell said.

Although the provision wouldn't halt shipments of trash into Michigan, it could slow them by forcing shippers to deal with regulatory hurdles. Michigan now is getting about 200 truckloads of solid waste each day from Canada. Dingell said half of it is dumped in his district.

The House has not yet considered two other measures that would halt Canadian trash shipments. One bill, sponsored by Rogers, would ban Canadian trash shipments but not shipments from other states, in an effort to appease trash exporting states such as New York. Another bill, sponsored by Rep. Jim Greenwood, R-Pa., would give states more authority to control trash.

Earlier this month, state lawmakers passed a package of bills that would put a two-year moratorium on new landfills in Michigan.

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