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Great Lakes Article:

U.S. lawmakers hear arguments on banning trash
Federal hearing set on proposals to limit out-of-state waste
By Joel Kurth
The Detroit News
07/16/03


SUMPTER TOWNSHIP -- Michigan's long-shot attempt to stem the tide of trash coming into its borders will get a hearing next Wednesday by U.S. lawmakers.

A U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee has scheduled a hearing on three bills to limit out-of-state trash. It follows a year of outcry that began Jan. 1 when Toronto began sending all its trash, about 1.1 million annual tons, to Carleton Farms landfill in Sumpter Township.

Prospects beyond the hearing are murky. It's just the second time Congress has even heard formal arguments about imported trash since 1994. That's the year legislation giving states power to block such shipments passed the U.S. House, but stalled in the Senate.

"This is the farthest we've gotten in years," said Jeff Surfus, a Dexter environmental activist tentatively scheduled to testify at the hearing. "It's a positive step, but there's still not a great chance anything will happen."

An abundance of landfills and competitive tipping rates have made Michigan the nation's third-largest importer of trash. The influx from Canada this year likely will push the state into the No. 2 position ahead of Virginia and behind Pennsylvania.

The Subcommittee on Environment and Hazardous Material will hear testimony on similar but separate legislation from Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Brighton, and Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn.

"Stopping the trash influx into our state is important from a perspective of public safety, quality of life and protection of our state and community resources," Rogers said in a prepared statement.

Despite public opposition to imported trash, Michigan has had little luck halting its flow. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled only Congress can regulate the garbage trade, and states such as New York that export trash have more representatives in the U.S. House.

"The people of Michigan have waited too long," Dingell said. "This hearing is a start. I look forward to working with my colleagues to solve the problem of out-of-state trash once and for all."

Rogers' bill would let states ban foreign waste. Dingell is a leading sponsor of separate bills to control interstate shipments and enforce an ignored agreement to halt the trade of trash between the United States and Canada.

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