U.S. lawmakers hear arguments
on banning trash
Federal hearing set on proposals to limit out-of-state
By Joel Kurth
The Detroit News
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
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,
"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.