Green groups plan to run TV ads against SC garbage bill

sfretwell@thestate.comNovember 1, 2013 

The mega Lee County Landfill rises like a mesa on the horizon near Bishopville as seen in this Sept. 2010 file photograph.

TIM DOMINICK — tdominick@thestate.com Buy Photo

— South Carolina’s role as a national destination for garbage will be the subject of radio and television advertisements that conservation groups are preparing in their fight against industry-supported trash legislation.

The state’s major environmental groups are targeting a bill they contend will bring more-out-state waste to South Carolina, a place with a legacy of accepting the nation’s refuse.

Green groups are holding a news conference Monday at the State House to talk about the advertisements and why they think it’s important to stop the legislation when lawmakers return in January.

“We have groups from across the spectrum that just feel like the bill would really change the face of South Carolina’’ if it passed, said Shawn Drury, field director for the Conservation Voters of South Carolina. “We’re talking out-of-state trash companies taking control of the landfills.”

That’s significant, environmentalists argue, because major trash corporations then would look to fill up landfills with garbage from anywhere they could find it – including other states.

Ten organizations oppose the bill, including six environmental groups and the S.C. Association of Counties. Their advertising campaign will include 15- and 30-second spots, although details won’t be released until Monday’s news conference.

Among those opposing the bill are the state Sierra Club, Sustainable Midlands, Upstate Forever and the S.C. Coastal Conservation League. The league, considered by many to be the state’s most influential environmental group, did not actively lobby against the bill last year. Those fighting the bill also have established a website, dontdumponsc.com, to highlight the issue.

The legislation would limit county control over the flow of garbage. Counties no longer would be able to require that garbage be hauled to the government-operated landfill. That could cut revenues to run landfills and eventually force them out of providing trash service to the public, according to environmental groups and the S.C. Association of Counties.

Bill supporters say the legislation prevents counties from having monopolies over the local garbage market and gives waste corporations a chance to compete locally. Garbage corporations say they could give customers an affordable price, but counties say customers would be at the mercy of for-profit corporations that already control a major chunk of the state’s garbage market.

Trash interests said Friday it is “disturbing” environmentalists and counties would run a “misleading television campaign.”

“Most business people that our industry works with understand that competition leads to competitive prices and high quality,” said Scott Fennell, acting chairman of the legislative committee for the National Solid Wastes Management Association. “Businesses must be able to continue to choose whom they would like to contract with to dispose of their waste in the future — this is the sole purpose of the legislation.”

The bill, supported by corporations such as Waste Management and Republic Services, sailed through the House but stalled in the Senate, despite a massive lobbying effort by industry and environmentalists.

Both sides hired influential former legislators to help make the case to sitting lawmakers, but the garbage industry has in recent years outspent green groups and the state Association of Counties. Through the end of 2012, key garbage interests had spent some $1.5 million lobbying the legislature in the previous four years, compared to about $680,000 for the bill’s most vocal opponents, The State newspaper reported in May.

Bringing out-of-state waste to South Carolina has been a sore spot for years because the state has had so many disposal sites that accepted refuse from other states. At one time, South Carolina had a regional hazardous waste dump at Lake Marion, a national nuclear waste dump at Barnwell and a regional medical waste incinerator at Hampton. Those have since closed or ramped down operations, but the rise of mega-garbage landfills has been an increasing concern. The most visible mega-dump is one in Lee County that takes much of its refuse from other states, from North Carolina to the northeastern United States.

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