State Chamber Opposes Bill Lifting Waste Cap

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A bill to remove the $500,000 cap now in place on state fees charged for hazardous waste disposal in Oklahoma would provide a revenue source for pollution clean-up, Oklahoma Sen. Ed Long, D-Garber, said Monday.

Meanwhile, the board of directors of the Oklahoma State Chamber of Commerce and Industry has voted to oppose the bill.

At a State Capitol news conference, Long said his Senate Bill 219 could generate an additional $2.5 million a year to go toward Oklahoma's 10 percent share of cleanup of federal Superfund sites and other pollution.

Senate Bill 219 is scheduled for hearing Thursday in the Natural Resources Committee of the Oklahoma State Senate.

By virtue of 1990 legislation, hazardous waste landfills in Oklahoma now pay the state $12 a ton for the in-state-generated waste they accept and $18 a ton for out-of-state-generated waste they accept.

The charges, which are remitted to the state by the disposal facility and passed on to customers, halt for a specific facility once they reach a $500,000 total.

Therefore, individual customers do not end up paying $12 or $18 a ton for waste disposal because their cost is averaged among total customers, whose tonnage far exceeds the amount that would generate $500,000.

In addition to removing the $500,000 cap, Long's bill would raise the out-of-state tonnage charge from $18 to $30.

Gary McCuistion, director of community affairs for U.S. Pollution Control Inc. in Houston, said last week that such a law would probably result in customers being charged according to the fee schedule, instead of the pro rata method now used.

U.S. Pollution Control, formerly based in Oklahoma City, operates the Lone Mountain Controlled Industrial Waste Facility, the major hazardous waste landfill in Oklahoma.

The company also operates the USPCI Hydrocarbon Recovery Services recycling facility in Tulsa.

The hazardous waste disposal fees currently go toward administering the Controlled Industrial Waste Disposal Act, developing an inventory of controlled wastes produced in the state and waste management needs, educational programs, waste reduction plans for Oklahoma waste generators, and increased inspection of controlled industrial waste facilities.

The extra money generated by the higher fee schedule in Senate Bill 219 would be used for the state's share of cleanup of Superfund pollution sites. It would also go toward response - including containment and removal - to emergency spillage, leakage or emission situations.

The money would also fund remediation of sites contaminated by controlled industrial waste in cases where a responsible party could not be found and made to do it.

Without another revenue source, Oklahoma's 10 percent share of Superfund site cleanup will come from general revenues, Long said.

The state chamber, however, views the bill as penalizing companies that are honorable about waste disposal for pollution they were not responsible for.

"House Bill 1933 called for the money collected through the fee process to go to the State Health Department program to deal with hazardous waste, and it was adequate for that," said Ronn Cupp, chamber vice president for government affairs.

House Bill 1933, signed into law last year, was the measure that instituted the current hazardous waste disposal fee system.

"If you expand that you are, in effect, punishing current industries for things that might have been the fault of industries in the past," Cupp said. …