October 21, 2014

Conservation groups and counties run ad against proposed law they say favors “Big Trash”

SC Association of Counties chairman Joe Branham said lawmakers must choose between SC citizens or "waste corporations"

SC Association of Counties chairman Joe Branham said lawmakers must choose between SC citizens or “waste corporations”

“Deah Sout’ Carolina. Tank you guys for taking our garbage. We can’t have mountains of garbage stinkin’ up Staten Island.”

So begins a new ad launched this week by conservationists and county governments.

The Don’t Dump on SC coalition ad targets a bill currently making its way through the South Carolina Senate, which opponents claim would make it easier for private landfills to bring in tons of trash from out-of-state.  It features the voice of a man with a stereotypical New York accent, who “thanks” South Carolina for its “Southern hospitality” in receiving tons of New York trash.

However, business groups say the ad is an overreaction to their efforts to keep government-run landfills from having a monopoly on waste in South Carolina.

“Don’t Dump on SC” is a coalition of environmental groups and some county organizations that are fighting H.3290, billed by supporters as the “Business Freedom to Choose Act.” Supporters say it’s designed to stop Horry County from requiring all residents’ and businesses’ solid waste to be deposited in the county-run landfill, but opponents say the language would open the door for tons of out-of-state trash to be dumped in South Carolina.

“The General Assembly must decide whether to support large, out-of-state waste corporations or the citizens of this state,” South Carolina Association of Counties president Joe Branham told reporters during Monday’s news conference unveiling the new ad. He added that counties use “flow control” laws to manage how trash is handled inside their borders.

Conservation Voters of South Carolina executive director Ann Timberlake said the legislation would incentivize landfills to take out-of-state trash, which often pays better than in-state streams.

“Given our history, we should be wary of the desire of other states to use us and of the greed to profit at our expense,” she said Monday.

However business groups said opponents are blowing the issue out of proportion. South Carolina Chamber of Commerce CEO Otis Rawl says companies should be able to choose whichever landfill they want at the best available price.

“What this is really about for the business community is our ability for our businesses to select who they want to dispose their trash with in the most competitive manner,” Rawl said. “”If local governments can give us a fee that’s comparative with the private side, our businesses want the ability to choose.”

SC Manufacturers Alliance President Lewis Gossett and SC Chamber of Commerce CEO Otis Rawl speak to reporters Monday

SC Manufacturers Alliance President Lewis Gossett and SC Chamber of Commerce CEO Otis Rawl speak to reporters Monday

South Carolina Manufacturers Alliance President & CEO Lewis Gossett said counties only oppose the bill because they are trying to protect a revenue source.

“If Horry County’s that efficient, they shouldn’t worry about anybody competing with them. People will line up to take their waste to that facility,” he told South Carolina Radio Network. “But the truth of the matter is they’re not (efficient) and they want to make money on their landfills.”

But Association of Counties attorney Josh Rhodes said counties depend on the revenue source because the flow of trash is used to calculate bond repayments. If the trash goes elsewhere, he said, it’s likely the county would have to raise taxes or sell its landfill to a private company in order to pay back the bond.

“The private companies are in the business of filling it up as fast as possible to make as much money as possible,”Rhodes said. “Counties are in the business of protecting the capacity for their citizens. So they don’t fill it up as fast as possible. They do just what they need to do to fund the landfill or, in some cases, just get by.”