February 02, 2006
We’re all for discouraging Canada from making Michigan its back-door dumping ground. But state House Democrats’ idea of a $7.50-per-ton landfill tax will punish everyone, not just the Canadians who are dumping waste here.
Jackson County has one of the highest tipping fees in the nation, at $89.62 per ton. That means waste haulers must pay that amount every time they drop off trash at the county incinerator. They pass that cost along to customers as part of the hauling fees we all pay. An additional $7.50 per ton is not palatable to us.
In Jackson County, haulers must, by county ordinance, take their waste to the county incinerator; most is burned there, but about a quarter of it is buried in the McGill Road landfill.
We understand House Democrats’ anger that Michigan landfills accept Canadian trash — not just a little of it, but hundreds of truckloads every day. Actually, more than a few Republicans are upset by it too. There was enough bipartisan consensus last year to ban any new landfills — a ban that expired on Dec. 31.
Earlier this month, Democrats called for passage of a resolution that would let state voters decide whether a ban on new landfills should be continued, and whether the state should increase its current 21 cent-per-ton tipping fee to $7.50 per ton.
Some increase in the fee may merit discussion, but there are two problems: one, Jackson County residents could suffer disproportionate harm; and two, would that amount really discourage Canadian companies from bringing their waste here? If not, it’s a huge tax for no gain.
As we’ve argued before, the Canadian waste problem needs to be resolved at the federal level. Since the U.S. Supreme Court says this issue falls under the interstate commerce law, the solution is for Congress to amend the law to allow states some reasonable protection against being buried in waste from other countries.
Four members of Michigan’s congressional delegation are on the Committee on Energy and Commerce. One of them is U.S. Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., who reported in December that he and the others worked last year in a bipartisan push to get a floor vote on H.R. 2491.
That legislation would give the states new tools for managing trash imported from Canada.
Though Dingell and the others got the bill through two committees without a single vote against it, the House leadership (Republicans) has yet to schedule it for a floor vote.
Since this is a bipartisan problem, it demands a bipartisan solution that will serve the broad interest. And it is a much better solution than a new state tax. How about a floor vote, Republicans?