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U.S. House passes waste-blocking bill

Last night (Wednesday, September 7) the U.S. House of Representatives (HOR) voted to pass Bill HR 2491 that gives i...


Last night (Wednesday, September 7) the U.S. House of Representatives (HOR) voted to pass Bill HR 2491 that gives individual states the power to prohibit the import of international waste. HR 2491 passed on a voice vote. The Yeas and Nays were not requested.There was little debate on the merits of the legislation itself. Michigan Reps. Mike Rogers (MI-8th, R), Candice Miller (MI-10th, R), Bart Stupak (MI-1st, D) and Sander Levin (MI-12th, D) joined bill managers Gillmor and Dingell in voicing their approval. But there was a partisan split on the recent agreement reached by Michigan Senators Levin and Stabenow with the Province of Ontario. (In that agreement, Ontario agreed to stop shipping municipal waste south of the border by 2010. It was hoped the move would take the wind out of the sails of HR 2491.)Democrats strongly supported the deal and argued that it would stem the flow of garbage arriving from Canada and would forestall possible litigation against the bill, while Republicans noted that the deal had no legal guarantee that its provisions would be met and that legislation was the only way to certify that the problem would be resolved. All speakers did call on the Senate to pass their companion legislation however.The Bill has been the subject of much debate and maneuvering in Michigan, Ottawa and Washington. Michigan has already passed state legislation in anticipation of the approval of HR 2491 that would effectively prohibit the import of waste from Ontario within 90 days of the federal bill passage. Last night’s vote is somewhat of a surprise as proponents of the Bill were able to force the vote ahead of other important legislation and given the recent agreement between Ontario and Michigan on municipal waste export. How the Senate may proceed with the Bill is less clear.According to the Ontario Waste Management Association (OWMA) the U.S. Trade Representative is preparing a position, but OWMA has yet to view the written USTR position. OWMA is expecting a copy of the USTR letter Thursday and will post it on the OWMA website (members only) when received. The feeling in Washington is that the USTR position is not likely to prevent the passage of the Bill. The continuing focus on the waste export issue despite the agreement between Michigan Senators and Ontario reinforces that the issue has become partisan in the U.S. The recent Ontario agreement was not a government-to-government agreement but rather an agreement between Ontario and two U.S. Senators that represent the minority side of government in Washington. This likely reduced the significance of the agreement in the eyes of U.S. Republicans in the HOR and Senate and fueled efforts in the U.S. Congress to pass HR 2491.Watch this website for further updates. The next edition of Solid Waste & Recycling magazine (October/November) will contain detailed analysis of these developments and the implications for waste export and disposal for Canada.


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