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Klink urges passage of bill to limit trash imports to state

Saturday, March 20, 1999

By Don Hopey, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Saying it's time to take out the trash and keep it out, Rep. Ron Klink and a host of Pennsylvania lawmakers have introduced legislation aimed at reducing the importation of garbage from out of state.

The Murrysville Democrat said the bill, introduced in both the House and Senate Thursday, will give states the authority to control the amount of trash that is imported.

Pennsylvania stands to benefit most if the legislation is passed. The commonwealth imported 9.8 million tons of garbage last year - more than twice as much trash as any other state - up from 5.8 million tons in 1994.

"States are being buried in out-of-state trash, and the problem is only getting worse," Klink said yesterday at a news conference in Pittsburgh. Pennsylvania is now the destination for trash from 28 states, the District of Columbia, Canada and Puerto Rico.

Pennsylvania is the leading importer - ahead of Virginia, 2.8 million tons a year, and Indiana, 2.1 million tons a year - because it has lots of landfills with lots of capacity and is located near two of the three biggest trash exporters: New York and New Jersey.

Klink cited environmental and safety concerns, including trucking accidents and inspections that have found asbestos, hazardous and medical wastes among the municipal garbage, as reasons for limiting the trash imports.

Speaking Wednesday in Washington, Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., called interstate garbage "a top environmental priority for millions of Americans, millions of Pennsylvanians and for me."

Efforts by Gov. Ridge and other state officials to lobby other states to limit garbage imports have been largely ineffective because the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the trash trade constitutes interstate commerce and only Congress can regulate it.

"The time for talk is over. Its time for states to put up in their efforts to limit trash imports," Klink said.

The bill would give states authority to pass their own laws to freeze out-of-state waste importation at 1993 levels and place caps on annual imports. Local governments would be able to ban trash imports unless a landfill or incinerator has a pre-existing contract with that government.

It would not go into effect for three years after it is passed or following the end of pre-existing contracts, whichever is longer.

The Specter-Klink bill, which has 50 co-sponsors, joins other interstate trash bills already introduced by Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia legislators. Previous efforts to limit interstate garbage have failed because of objections from New York and other states that export more than 25 million tons of trash a year.

"We tried to strike a reasonable position with this bill. We think it will pass a constitutional test," Klink said. "It doesn't stop interstate waste transport, but it does give states the ability to limit it. We think that given the bipartisan consensus, the bill can go somewhere."


The Associated Press contributed to this article.



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