Solid Waste Bill Causes Stir

FAIRFIELD – What began as a local dispute between Horry County and a Marion County solid waste disposal company has made its way to Assembly Street, drawing opposition from counties across the state – including Fairfield – and inciting the ire of the S.C. Association of Counties.

The bill (H.3290) was mentioned by Council member Mary Lynn Kinley (District 6) at Fairfield County’s Feb. 11 Council meeting, and the County has since signed on to a resolution opposing the amendment to the state’s Solid Waste Management Plan that would change the way counties direct the flow of their garbage.

“We’re now hauling our own waste, which is saving us about $375,000 a year,” Council Chairman David Ferguson said. “Lobbyists for the waste industries have persuaded our representatives to get behind this, and if we don’t stop it, these companies are going to be able to come in here and put their trash dumps wherever they want to put them.”

“Right now, counties have the responsibility to decide where waste sites go,” said Wes Covington, a lawyer with the Association of Counties. “This is the biggest determent to mega-dumps. The new bill says an ordinance that impedes the development of a waste disposal program, regardless of location, is invalidated.”

But Sen. Creighton Coleman (D-17), who co-sponsored the Senate version of the bill (S.203), said that argument is incorrect. It was never the intent of the bill to supersede county zoning ordinances, he said, and no bill can be made to retroactively strike down existing ordinances. Furthermore, he said, the language Covington is referring to was removed from the House bill last month, before the bill went into the Senate Medical Affairs Committee.

“The intent is to keep counties from forming a monopoly and running private industry out of business, like Horry County did,” Coleman said. “The marketplace will determine where waste goes. It was never the intent of any of the sponsors of this bill to prohibit zoning laws.”

More directly, the bill prohibits counties from mandating where solid waste must be disposed.

“To the extent that a county ordinance requires disposal of waste at one or more designated solid waste management facilities or requires recovered materials to be processed or recycled at one or more designated facilities, the ordinance is void,” the most recent version of the bill states. Language from the previous Senate version of the bill, which stated, “To the extent that a county ordinance restricts or prohibits disposal of waste at a permitted solid waste management facility regardless of location or impedes the development or implementation of a public or private recycling program regardless of location, the ordinance is void,” is not included in the version currently in committee.

Still, opponents of the bill warn of unintended consequences and argue that the act is too broad.

“This bill goes way beyond the Horry County dispute,” Covington said.

In 2009, Horry County passed an ordinance mandating that all Horry County waste be disposed of at its facility in Conway, essentially blocking Marion County businessman William Clyburn from picking up Horry County waste and dumping it in his construction and demolition disposal site across the county line. That, Coleman said, created a de facto monopoly on the waste disposal business for Horry County.

“The government got involved in private industry, manipulated it and created a monopoly,” Coleman said. “This bill prevents that from happening again.

“This bill does not legislate counties out of the solid waste business,” Coleman added, “but it puts private industry on a level playing field.”

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