Hazardous waste bill takes first step

hazardous_waste_caution_signLast week, we asked: who would want more hazardous waste in Alabama? Apparently Alabama House members.

More than 150 people sent comments to the House Commerce and Small Business Committee asking them to vote NO on HB181. Instead, the committee unanimously adopted a substitute bill that would lower the fee to dump hazardous waste, particularly at the Emelle facility in Sumter County, from $21.60 a ton to $11 a ton, instead of the $10 a ton in the original bill.

Bill lead sponsor Rep. A.J McCampbell and others touted the economic development and jobs the lowered fee would bring to Alabama, but made no mention that increased flow of hazardous waste into the Emelle facility meant more hazardous waste on Alabama’s roads, rails, and rivers. Since the facility opened more than 35 years ago, hundreds of thousands of tons of chemical waste has been dumped in Alabama. Currently, there is a moratorium on new solid waste landfills because Governor Bentley and the legislature demanded that solid waste programs be studied so that Alabama would not be the nation’s dumping ground. Unfortunately, the study did not extend to hazardous waste landfills. The hazardous waste bill could be before the full House as early as this week.

Also related to landfills, Sen. Tom Whatley has introduced legislation that will allow the Public Service Commission to regulate fees at solid waste landfills. With the study on landfills not yet complete, and a Public Service Commission embroiled in controversy over utilities’ rate of return, this seems like an inopportune time to be changing solid waste governance.

On the positive side, the Historic Tax Credit bill passed the House Ways and Means Education Committee, a significant step for the long sought-after legislation. The bill will spur reinvestment in historic downtowns and neighborhoods by providing an income tax credit for those who invest in and redevelop historic properties. By supporting reinvestment in historic town centers, the state will be encouraging more walkable communities that are healthier for the public, economy, and environment in the state.

This week, both the House and Senate will consider companion bills to allow private developers to build a conference facility at Gulf State Park. Since the destruction of the Gulf State Park hotel and conference center by Hurricane Ivan in 2004, several proposals have been made to create a high-end conference facility on the site.

You can follow legislation related to the environment each week on Conservation Alabama’s Hot List at conservationalabama.org.

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