Senate bill puts municipalities on solid waste reduction shedule

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STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, JUNE 8, 2016…..With four bills on tap and more than 80 total amendments proposed to them, the Senate appears to have filled its plate for Thursday’s formal session.

In addition to the first major overhaul of the state’s zoning laws in more than four decades (S 2144), the Senate is expected to debate legislation seeking to reduce municipal solid waste and promote recycling, and a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing.

A Sen. Marc Pacheco bill (S 454) and Ways and Means Committee redraft (S 2308) that would require each of the state’s cities and towns to reduce their solid waste to no more than 600 pounds per capita by July 2018 and no more than 450 pounds per capita by July 2022. A similar iteration of the bill passed the Senate, but not the House, in 2014.

“The more trash we put into landfills, the more we fill up landfills quickly, the more greenhouse gases we have emitted from landfills,” Pacheco said. “It’s a never-ending cycle that we really can’t have continue. Not only is it environmentally the wrong thing to do, but also the public health aspect of it is not positive, and economically it could save cities and towns and taxpayer resources.”

According to Pacheco, 53 percent of Massachusetts communities are already in compliance with the proposed 2018 per person cap and 26 percent of municipalities already meet the 2022 requirement.

The bill mirrors the structure of the 2008 Global Warming Solutions Act, which Pacheco also sponsored. The GWSA mandates that the state must reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 25 percent below 1990 statewide levels by 2020, and 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

“This is trying to set standards that communities need to move towards. It would be consistent with the overall requirements of the Global Warming Solutions Act,” Pacheco said. “Greenhouse gas emissions from landfills are a significant part of our greenhouse gas emissions problem.”

Among the 14 amendments filed to Pacheco’s bill is a Sen. Jason Lewis proposal to scrap Pacheco’s per capita standards and replace them with language directing the Department of Environmental Protection to “develop standards, designed to decrease over time, on a per capita or per household basis, that serve the goal of reducing the quantity of solid waste produced in the commonwealth.”

Lewis, who co-sponsored Pacheco’s original bill, also filed an amendment to allow DEP to enforce bans on recyclable or toxic materials being disposed of like other solid waste, which could help prevent those materials from being counted against the per person standards.

One recurring target for amendment is the section of the bill that would require municipalities to annually report to DEP the total weight of solid waste disposed of each year.

Sen. John Keenan filed an amendment that would exempt any municipality that “demonstrates a deficiency in the state appropriation required” to comply with the reporting requirement, and Sen. Patrick O’Connor has proposed scrapping the reporting requirement all together.

Sen. Anne Gobi, who represents several rural towns in north central Massachusetts, has filed an amendment that would exempt from the solid waste reduction standards any municipality that does not operate trash and recycling collection.

And Sen. Jamie Eldridge has proposed requiring all privately-contracted waste disposal or trash hauling companies to provide recycling collection for their customers.

The Senate has also prepared to debate a Gobi bill (S 1653) that would require all state facilities with more than 50 employees to implement recycling programs for a selected list of materials — including lead batteries, metal and glass containers, single-polymer plastics, paper, yard waste, tires, fluorescent lamps, cathode ray tubes and construction material — and file annual reports on the amount of waste generated and recycled.

Tarr filed the only two amendments to that bill, one of which calls for carpets to be included in the list of materials that must be included and the other of which would require the annual reports to include information on the cost of running the recycling program.

Also teed up for consideration is legislation calling for a 10-year ban on hydraulic fracturing, often referred to as fracking, in Massachusetts.

The fracking moratorium would run from Jan. 1, 2017 to Dec. 31, 2026 and would ban hydraulic fracturing — the pumping of fluid into the ground to extract oil or gas from the resulting fractures — and the collecting, storage, treatment or disposal of hydraulic fracturing fluid waste byproducts in Massachusetts, according to a bill summary. The fluid would be categorized as a pollutant, and the Division of Water Pollution Control would be given the authority to enforce the moratorium.

Sen. O’Connor of Weymouth filed the only three amendments to the fracking ban bill, each one concerning natural gas compression stations.

O’Connor, who is also president of the Weymouth Town Council, opposes the plan of Houston-based Spectra Energy to build a 7,700-horsepower natural gas compressor station in Weymouth.

The bill, also sponsored by Pacheco, comes after other attempts to ban fracking in Massachusetts have failed.

Copyright 2016 State House News Service

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