Welch's Bill Would Recycle Garbage Laws in Illinois

Article excerpt

Sen. Patrick Welch says it is time to scrap Illinois' laws on pollution control facilities so the state doesn't become a nationwide "magnet for garbage."

Welch and other state officials fear Illinois could become a dumping ground because a federal judge in East St. Louis found last month that the rules the state has used to regulate imported garbage are unconstitutional.

Without those rules, state officials say, citizens would no longer be able to stop dumps, incinerators and transfer stations from opening or expanding.

So Welch has proposed legislation to dump the state's 12-year-old pollution control laws, which have treated local trash differently from garbage shipped into Illinois from other states.

"We're trying to treat everything alike and require local siting for all facilities," said Welch, D-Peru. "We want to maintain the local control and have as much input as possible."

Welch's legislation could end the stink over the state's garbage laws that arose last year when two trains filled with rotting trash from New York rolled into the Metro East area.

As the garbage was unloaded, state and local officials charged that five companies were operating transfer stations without the permits required for regional pollution control facilities - landfills, incinerators and transfer stations that accept garbage from outside a local community.

The companies sued, arguing that they were being discriminated against because they couldn't get the permits without a public hearing. No public hearing would have been required if the garbage had been generated locally.

The companies won last month when U.S. District Judge William L. Beatty held that the state's pollution control laws were unconstitutional. Beatty found that Illinois violated federal interstate commerce laws by treating imported garbage and local trash differently.

Attorney General Roland Burris has until Friday to appeal Beatty's ruling, but Welch said legislators should just rewrite the laws.

"The attorney general should be in the forefront of this issue," Welch said. "He shouldn't be hesitating whether to appeal or to seek legislation. …

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