Mega-Landfill Background

 

Senate Bill 328 passed the Senate and died in the House.

 

Existing NC landfill regulations were developed, in part, as a response to interest from out-of-state waste haulers in building regional “mega-landfills” in Eastern NC, potentially making NC a net importer of waste. This interest compelled state agencies and the NC legislature to do a comprehensive review of the state’s solid waste policies, including a review of best practices in other states and input from federal and state agencies. In 2007, after a year-long moratorium and study, the most comprehensive update of NC solid waste law since 1991 was enacted. Senate Bill 328 would have repealed carefully studied landfill regulations, including some protections enacted before 2007.

 

Summary of Senate Bill 328 – Solid Waste Management Act of 2013

 

1.  Removes significant protections for public trust waters and public lands.

  • Eliminates buffers for wetlands and perennial streams.
  • Drastically reduces distance that a landfill must be from state parks (2 miles to 1,500 ft), from state gamelands (1 mile to 1,500 ft), and from a National Wildlife Refuge (5 miles to 1,500 ft).
  • Eliminates protections for siting landfills in isolated wetlands, which recharge groundwater. Polluting isolated wetlands could, in turn, pollute groundwater.
  • Reduces and, in some cases, eliminates inspection requirements for leachate wastewater drainage pipes that carry wastewater to storage or treatment.

 

2. Impacts adjacent communities.

  • Eliminates any specific minimum financial assurance to address contamination or other problems.  Current law requires $2 million.
  • The definition of leachate (“garbage juice”) leaking from garbage trucks would be altered and thus be unregulated.
  • Eliminates language designed to protect minority and low income communities from suffering a disproportionate adverse impact from a landfill.

 

3.  Reduces public participation in new landfill siting.

  • Repeals requirement that the state do an environmental impact statement (EIS) as part of a new landfill application. The EIS process includes public participation in landfill siting decisions.

 

4. Reduces DENR’s discretion in denying permits.

  • Extends life of permit by 30 years, eliminating permit renewals.
  • Repeals most grounds for permit denial based on damage to a significant natural areas.
  • Limits DENR to considering only location, not impact of landfill.

 

5.  Encourages shipment of out of state waste into NC.

  • Supports large landfills with minimal regulation, no minimum financial assurance requirements, and reduced public participation in siting of landfills.  The measure seems intended to attract out of state waste companies.
  • NC is currently a net exporter of solid waste.  S 328 could make us a net importer.

 

Why is this bill needed?  It is not. NC has expanded its landfill capacity by an estimated 30% since 2007 while also substantially reducing its solid waste.  There is no documentation that NC has a capacity issue that would require such drastic changes to current statutes.