Controversial S.C. Garbage Bill - Local news, weather, sports Savannah | WSAV On Your Side

Controversial S.C. Garbage Bill

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COLUMBIA, S.C. -

A group called "Don't Dump on SC", made up of several other conservation and other organizations, has started running a new TV ad to fight a bill they say would cost you money and bring more out-of-state garbage into South Carolina. But supporters of the bill say it would save businesses money.

The TV ad (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DMPH8xQpv38) has a man with a New York accent thanking South Carolina for taking the city's trash.

The bill (http://www.scstatehouse.gov/query.php?search=DOC&searchtext=3290&category=LEGISLATION&session=120&conid=7397838&result_pos=&keyval=1203290&numrows=10) is actually called the "Business Freedom to Choose Act."  It would prohibit local ordinances that "direct the flow of waste."

Otis Rawl, president and CEO of the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce, says this whole issue started when Horry County passed an ordinance requiring all solid waste in the county to be disposed of in the Horry County landfill. The bill would prevent those kinds of ordinances and allow private companies to come in and provide competition. "Without competition, rates go up all across the state, and that's what we're asking for: fair competition between public and private," Rawl says.

But members of "Don't Dump on SC" say that competition would not actually be good for consumers. Public landfills are opened, and later closed, using money from revenue bonds. Those bonds are paid off using fees charged for the waste that goes into the landfills.

Repaying those bonds depends on the landfills handling a certain amount of waste. So if a private landfill opens nearby to provide competition, the public landfill won't likely be able to pay off its bonds.

Josh Rhodes, staff attorney for the South Carolina Association of Counties, says counties then have two choices: "They can either tax their citizens, which is a very unpopular thing to do in the county and good way to get unelected, or they can sell out to a private company, which that's what this bill, in my opinion, is truly about," he says.

If a county sells its landfill to a private company, then two things can happen, he says: the private company can then start charging more because the competition from the public landfill is gone; and the private landfill can take in a lot more trash from other states. Public landfills can refuse out-of-state garbage. But since other states pay a lot more to take their trash, a private waste company is much more likely to take in a lot more from out of state. Robert Croom, deputy general counsel for the SC Association of Counties, says, "New York City pays $139 a ton. The state average here is $38. So if you were running a business, which ton of garbage would you take?"

But Rawl says only 8 percent of the trash going into South Carolina landfills is from out-of-state, and that number has been declining. He says the bill would not mean a lot more out-of-state trash.

The bill passed the South Carolina House earlier this year but got stuck in the Senate. Supporters are now trying to attach it to another bill dealing with electronic waste. That attempt is expected to come up early in the session when lawmakers go back to the Statehouse in January.

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