The Michigan House of Representatives has approved legislation that would prohibit Canadian trash from being dumped in state landfills once the U.S. government gives the state the authority to ban foreign trash.
Several Michigan law-makers said the legislation did not go far enough. They said the state should not wait for the U.S. government to ban foreign garbage and said the measure limits only a portion of out-of-state waste because it doesn't limit refuse coming in from other states.
House Republicans, who previously opposed an outright ban on Canadian trash, said they were moving the bills forward because the U.S. House of Representatives was expected to take up a measure in the coming weeks that would allow states to regulate foreign trash. It is not clear when the bill will be taken up by the U.S. Senate.
Michigan Republicans said U.S. Supreme Court decisions have stated the federal constitution's interstate commerce clause allows only Congress, not the states, to regulate the trash trade. "Our hands are tied from a federal perspective and will continue to be tied until the federal government acts," said Republican State Representative David Palsrok.
The state ban on foreign municipal waste would kick in 90 days after a new U.S. law takes effect.
Other bills in the package would make it a felony to dump foreign trash in Michigan, punishable by up to two years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Landfill owner Waste Management of Michigan criticized the state legislation, saying it would incorrectly ban Canadian trash, instead of responsibly regulating it as required in the legislation being considered by the U.S. Congress.
The company said the federal measure "does not call for a flat ban on Canadian waste shipments but ensures that nothing `affects, replaces or amends prior law relating to the need for consistency with international trade obligations'." Tom Horton, government affairs manager for Waste Management said: "Canadian waste is a form of commerce, like cars and clothing."
Legislators are trying to stop Canadian trash from entering the state because Canada is the largest source of trash dumped in Michigan landfills.
Nearly four million tonnes of trash from Canada went into Michigan during the 2003-04 fiscal year, up by 23 per cent over the previous year.
The Department of Environmental Quality said the amount of trash generated by state residents dropped two per cent during that period.
Canadian trash volume jumped because Toronto began sending all of its trash to Michigan in 2003 when its landfills became full.
Canada's largest city ships one million tonnes of trash a year to the Carleton Farms landfill in Wayne County's Sumpter Township.
The state legislation will go to the Senate, where the bills likely will see quick action.