Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Garbage: Unwanted Interstate Business

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Garbage: Unwanted Interstate Business

Article excerpt

'A SIMPLE fact is clear," United States Sen. Dan Coates (R) of Indiana told the Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce the other day. "We can't control our future if we can't control our borders."

Mr. Coates was speaking, not of illegal immigrants massed along the Rio Grande, but of truckloads of garbage rolling by the thousands out of Eastern states toward landfills in the Midwest and beyond. The Hoosier politician's warning is part of a growing civil war that is quite literally messy, smelly, and poisonous.

Americans produce some 180 million tons of municipal solid waste a year. Of that, 15 million tons is shipped between states, more than half of it out of New York and New Jersey.

US Rep. Wayne Owens (D) of Utah complains that his region "has been used and abused as our nation's cesspool and repository" for hazardous and solid waste. US Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D) of New Jersey retorts that Midwesterners "send your garbage to New Jersey every day of every year ... by air" in the form of acid rain from coal-fired power plants.

Nevada, South Carolina, and Washington State are fighting efforts by Michigan to send low-level radioactive wastes to their dumps. Other states have tried to block the import of garbage, only to be rebuffed by courts more concerned with illegal restraint of trade.

Senator Coates has proposed legislation that would allow states to charge more to dispose of imported trash. His bill also would let states ban or regulate out-of-state trash once they have a comprehensive plan for dealing with their own solid waste.

The invasion Coates and others in the Midwest, South, and West are trying to stop is part of a bigger problem. In a nutshell, says Sen. Max Baucus (D) of Montana, "we are overwhelming ourselves with garbage and we are running out of safe and secure places in which to place it." Mr. Baucus heads the Senate environmental protection subcommittee, which is working on amendments to the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). This is the comprehensive federal legislation that deals with the more than 13 billion tons of solid and hazardous waste generated in the US every year, including municipal and industrial waste, mining wastes, construction and demolition debris, and sludge. …

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