Solid waste bill has Lancaster County officials worried

Special to the Fort Mill TimesJanuary 26, 2014 

— The Lancaster County Economic Development Corporation Board of Directors hopes to keep local control of solid waste.

The LCEDC Board voted 13-0, with two abstentions, to oppose pending legislation in the South Carolina State Legislature to change the way collection and handling of solid waste is regulated in the state, according to a LCEDC press release.

If approved, the South Carolina House Bill 3290 and Senate Bill 203, could open the state up to additional out-of-state trash being placed in privately held landfills throughout South Carolina as control would be taken away from the county and local municipalities across the state, officials said.

“Any time local control is taken away from local county or city governments it’s a bad thing,” said Keith Tunnell, LCEDC president.

Lancaster County uses the Lee County landfill, which will not directly be impacted if the bill passes, Tunnell said. However, he said the LCEDC board opposes the bill as it would take away the county’s control of solid waste.

“We believe the counties individually should have control,” he said. “The state should be approving legislation for alternative waste disposal methods such as incinerators and other facilities that utilize technology other than just continuing to permit and put trash in landfills.”

While counties’ landfills provide an economical public service, privately owned landfills work to make a profit, said Robert Croom, deputy general counsel at the South Carolina Association of Counties.

If it passes, the measure could potentially create financial burdens for county owned landfills as they would lose funds to the private sector, Croom said.

While Lancaster County would not be significantly hurt if it passes, other counties across South Carolina that own landfills would, said Steve Willis, Lancaster County administrator.

Willis said that if control of solid waste handling is to be taken away from the counties, the state should have to maintain waste disposal.

“Don’t make (counties) legally responsible,” he said.

The legislation’s original intent was to prevent local governments from monopolizing the solid waste industry, said state Senator Greg Gregory.

The case originated in Horry County, where the legislation declared that all waste generated in the county had to go to the county owned landfill, Gregory said.

“I think this is a dangerous and bad precedent,” he said. “No monopoly is good whether it involves private industry or the government.”

Gregory said the bill is “effectively dead due to a groundswell of opposition.”

The legislation, which is pending in the state legislature, could come up for a vote this session and could become law if passed by the legislature and signed by Gov. Nikki Haley.

However, Tunnell said that possibility looks unlikely.

“While it does seem this bill is going to die this session, it is concerning to me and others that it got as far as it did,” he said. “The public and our elected officials need to remain vigilant in making sure this, or another bill like it, doesn’t come back up in the legislature this year or in coming years.”

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