Garbage in Black and White

Fairfield County Council has been a proactive, progressive bunch in recent years, for which they have often received our editorial support. The Council’s commitment to providing job training opportunities for Fairfield County residents in the form of the Midlands Tech QuickJobs center is one such example. We have also stood behind Council’s efforts to attract industry to the county, as well as their mission to clean up the county by implementing and enforcing serious property maintenance codes.

But on the issue of garbage, we are forced for the moment to part ways.

When the Council Chairman took the floor at last month’s intergovernmental meeting, we were surprised to hear his interpretation of a certain piece of legislation currently under consideration in the State Senate. That bill, S.203 – also known as the “Business Freedom to Choose Act,” or the solid waste flow control bill – has created quite a stir among counties statewide. Their lobbying arm, the S.C. Association of Counties, has been filling up email in-boxes and pounding on doors down at the Statehouse. Likewise, the garbage Titans who proposed the bill have outspent the Association by almost 3-1, lobbying the legislature to pass the bill.

Legislators charge the Association with spreading disinformation, while the Association charges legislators with selling out to corporate interests. Regardless of which is true, and both may well be, word from Columbia is that many legislators will no longer even let the Association’s lobbyists into their waiting rooms.

There may be some good things in it, and there may be some bad. In its current form, the bill does not appear to threaten home rule, nor does it handicap a county’s ability to zone where – and if – landfills are located within their borders. It also does not open the door to all manner of undesirable waste from other states. Though opponents say waste from other states might well increase under the garbage Titans.

We have read it. Repeatedly. What the bill does, in our opinion, is prohibit counties from mandating which landfills private companies choose to dispose of waste. Proponents of the bill say it aims to prevent counties from creating a landfill monopoly by telling a private waste company they have to use the county’s landfill – and pay the county’s fees, however high. If another, less expensive landfill exists just down the road, in another county, this bill gives that company the right to dump there. But if the bill passes, opponents of the bill say there will be no veto power over the Titan lords of the landfills as there is over elected lords of the landfills.

Responding to a question from the District 4 Councilman, the Association’s spokesperson said the bill would strip counties from any say-so regarding out of state waste. DHEC says otherwise.

It is, however, entirely possible that there exists another version of this bill that differs from the House and Senate versions. One that does indeed contain all of the Council Chairman’s worst fears.

Should that become so, we will say so, and we will urge our local senator, who supports this bill, to vote against it. Until then, instead of being led by the nose by either side, the public might want to research the bill and learn the facts for themselves.

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