Tough inspection fees are being imposed on garbage trucks entering Michigan across the U.S.-Canada border. The inspection fee provision was proposed by U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) who has announced that the U.S. Senate unanimously approved her legislation. The provision was cosponsored by U.S. Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) and was included as part of the fiscal year 2007 Homeland Security appropriations bill.
The new legislation directs U.S. Customs and Border Patrol to charge fees of approximately $420 per garbage truck to Canadian companies hauling waste to Michigan. The fees will pay for comprehensive security inspections at the border.
“This is a major victory for Michigan, and our message is loud and clear,” Stabenow said, according to a report in the Waste Business Journal. “Until the Administration uses its authority to stop the trash completely, it should be the Canadian trash haulers, not American taxpayers, footing the bill for these inspections.”
“These shipments are more than a nuisance — they are a threat to our environment, our health and our security,” said Levin. “Senator Stabenow’s leadership has been instrumental in the push for a fee that would discourage these shipments and the problems they present. This is a significant step towards improving our security and protecting Michigan’s landfills from being filled with Canadian trash.”
Meanwhile, waste industry representatives in Canada are in discussion with the North American Solid Waste Management Association (NSWMA) in Washington about the bill and think it may not be law quite yet. There is the need to “conference” the Senate Bill with the House Bill and the thinking is that the waste fee provision could be removed, so it’s too early to say it’s a “done deal.”
Each day, more than 350 trash trucks cross the border from Canada on their way to Michigan landfills. The Department of Homeland Security reports that it will take four U.S. Customs agents four hours to physically inspect a single trash truck. In recent years, inspections have turned up hazardous medical waste, radioactive materials, illegal drugs and counterfeit money. The trucks may be an attractive target for terrorists and other criminals.
With approximately 35 tonnes of garbage in each truck, the inspection fee would add about $12 per tonne to disposal costs, an economic disincentive for waste export. It’s unclear how much waste may be diverted by the new disincentive if it comes into effect, but one thing is clear: experts and industry groups that follow these matters closely were surprised by the new legislation, which was tucked inside another bill.
Lawyer and Solid Waste & Recycling magazine contributing editor Adam Chamberlain, who has warned in his columns about previous attempts at this kind of disincentive, says, “This is a good example of how this kind of legislation can slip through quietly without anyone knowing.”
The Ontario Waste Management Association and other industry groups are discussing this matter and will issue statements eventually, which will be reported in this space.