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Ridge seeks limit on trash imports

42% of all waste in Pa. came here from out of state

Thursday, March 11, 1999

By Karen MacPherson, Post-Gazette Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON - Pennsylvania's Gov. Ridge said yesterday that he's going to try to broker a compromise with other governors that would allow states to limit the amount of out-of-state trash they have to accept.

Ridge, who met with the 23-member Pennsylvania congressional delegation in Washington yesterday, told reporters afterward that the compromise effort is part of a two-pronged approach ultimately designed to win congressional approval of legislation allowing states to set limits on out-of-state trash.

"Congress must pass legislation allowing states to limit out-of-state trash," he said. "Without such federal legislation, states such as Pennsylvania cannot pass laws limiting the import of waste from other states."

The governor added that Pennsylvania, which already receives trash from more states than any other state, saw its trash "imports" increase by 13 percent last year. Trash imports made up 42 percent of all waste disposed of in Pennsylvania in 1998, he added.

Ridge said he was asked by Rep. Thomas Bliley, R-Va., the House Commerce Committee chairman, to help craft a compromise on the issue among governors who "export" their trash and those who import it.

Bliley sent a letter late last week to Ridge and the governors of 15 other states, urging them to talk compromise.

"I cannot justify devoting significant time of the committee and its 53 members to an issue on which the various states are apparently so far apart," wrote Bliley, who has opposed limits on trash imports.

Recently, however, Bliley's Virginia has itself become a major trash importer, and the state's two U.S. senators introduced a bipartisan bill last week to allow governors to impose a cap on imported garbage and to levy a $3-per-ton fee.

In a related move, Reps. Ron Klink, D-Murrysville, and James Greenwood, R-Philadelphia, who have developed legislation on the issue, plan to begin canvassing their colleagues today for support.

Both Klink and Greenwood are members of the Commerce panel Bliley chaired.

"We are not seeking to give states the outright authority to prohibit all out-of-state trash," Klink and Greenwood state in a "Dear Colleague" letter. "The [bill] will provide reasonable tools that will enable state and local governments to act responsibly to manage waste from other states."

At yesterday's news conference, Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said a measure allowing states to limit out-of-state trash "came within an eyelash of passing a couple of years ago.

"There's even more urgency now," he said. "I think we can get that legislative job done this year."

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