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"Flow Control" Bill on Solid Waste Could Devastate County Budgets
web posted February 22, 2013
COLUMBIA – A Bill that has already passed
the SC House is in the Senate, and if passed it would have devastating
consequences on counties across the state, especially Edgefield County.
H. 3290 Flow Control would eradicate counties from being able to enter
into controls on disposal of the solid waste generated by residents,
dissolve local county ordinances allowed under Home Rule, and prevent
counties from collecting garbage fees to pay for decades long contracts
already issued with promises to pay. In Edgefield County that cost is
roughly $900,000 of an $8 million budget each year.
"The proposed legislation (H. 3290 & S. 203) could potentially
impact the County. The proposed legislation states that it would void
solid waste fee ordinances. The County currently collects roughly
$900,000 in solid waste fees to fund the maintenance and operation of
the convenience centers, as well as disposal of the waste," Edgefield
County Administrator Lynn Strom said Thursday.
Under the current ordinances long term problems could go on for an
additional 14 years, which would, at the $900,000 a year contract, cost
the county $12.6 million in debt with no way to fund its payment. Bonds
issued based on these contracts also come into play.
"The contract with Three Rivers is a 30 year contract that was signed
in 1997," Administrator Strom said. "Edgefield County’s obligation is
10,000 tons of waste per year (price per ton changes periodically).
From what I have been told, the contract would still have to be met
even if this bill passes. Three Rivers has over $50 million in revenue
bonds based on expected revenues from each of the nine counties over
the life of this contract."
Mrs. Strom said Three Rivers is actively working to defeat this
legislation. "This act could have a devastating impact on counties all
over the state."
"Our attorney is in contact with other attorneys across the state and
they are looking into this closely to see what funding and operational
options the County would have if this passes," Mrs. Strom said.
The critical issues in the bill are identified by the South Carolina
Association of Counties (SCAC) as follows:
• It forbids any current
or future county ordinances directing where waste or recyclables go.
For example, typical franchise agreements that state where materials
must be taken, minimum tonnage agreements with collection or disposal
authorities, or even ordinances requiring waste put into receptacles or
left at convenience centers go to the county landfill or transfer
station would no longer be allowed.
service charges for solid waste or recycling services could be
in jeopardy if ordinances can no longer direct that the services be
used by those paying the charges.
future or outstanding bonds for solid waste or recycling programs
or facilities would be significantly impacted by this
deprives counties of an essential mechanism for funding solid
waste and recycling obligations that counties have planned for and
invested in as mandated by the Solid Waste Planning and Management Act.
(S.C. Code 44-96-10 et. seq.)
of this legislation would set a dangerous precedent. What if a
for-profit utility doesn't like a local government providing a service
to citizens? Should decades of planning and investment decision made
publicly on behalf of the citizens be overridden in this
law forces strict liability on all solid waste generators,
transporters or financially involved parties. Counties and cities have
been held liable by the courts numerous times under the federal
Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act
(CERCLA) and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). The
ability to direct the flow of solid waste is essential in limiting the
taxpayers' exposure to this liability.
House Representative Bill Hixon (R-North Augusta), who represents a
portion of Merriwether, voted in favor of the bill and has not returned
a call for comment at press time to explain his support of the bill.
Sen. Shane Massey said he feels the "brakes" have been applied on
the bill once it hit the Senate Committee. "The Senate is a much more
deliberative body," Sen. Massey said. A similar bill was stopped last
year in the Senate with just the objection by Horry County. I don't
think this bill has a chance to pass in its current form," Massey said.
As written, "Taxpayers would be on the hook for default payments (of
revenue bonds passed in good faith)," Massey said
Now that Three Rivers, who represents contracts in nine counties -
including Edgefield County - has gotten involved, "You're talking about
a third of the state," Massey said. "I don't see it happening in its
Sen. Massey said there could also be a "constitutional conflict" in the
way the proposed law affects the Home Rule Act of 1976, which allows
counties to enter into contracts and self govern without state
At this time it is unknown if the bill will move out of committee for a
full vote. If it does, Sen. Massey remains fairly confident it will not
pass as written.
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