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Published: Tuesday, 5/24/2005

Michigan seeks way to stem flood of trash imports


State Rep. Kathy Angerer showed up at a pair of Monroe County landfills yesterday morning touting Democrat-sponsored legislation that would raise Michigan's landfill tipping fee from 21 cents to $7.50 a ton.

"Let me tell you, we have a problem," Ms. Angerer said later in an interview. "Since Jan. 1, 2 million tons of trash have come into this state. We're shredding our roads, ruining our neighborhoods, and tarnishing our water."

Ms. Angerer, a Democrat from Dundee, carried with her a Trash-o-Meter - an electronic ticker-type device that tracks how much garbage comes into Michigan every day from Canada and other states. Democrats say that in 2004, 756,000 tons of trash were shipped into Michigan from Canada.

House Democrats have sent a bill to the chamber's Natural Resources, Great Lakes, Land Use, and Environmental Committee that calls for the increase in tipping fees. But the committee chairman said he's not in favor of the bill, and with a Republican majority it's unlikely to make it to the House floor.

"I'm opposed to Canadian trash coming across the border, but a $7.50 tipping fee is not the solution to the problem," said Rep. David Palsrok (R., Manistee). "My belief is that only the people of Michigan will pay the fee."

Mr. Palsrok said most Canadian cities that ship garbage to Michigan have long-term contracts and that a fee increase would not impact them.

Dan Farough, a spokesman for the House Democratic Caucus, said any new legislation would affect all contracts, even if they appear to be binding. He said it's clear why so much trash is being shipped into Michigan from Canada, Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Illinois.

Ohio's tipping fee is $2 a ton. However, legislation has passed the House that would raise the fee to $3.50. The bill is awaiting a decision by the Senate.

According to Mr. Farough, Michigan is third in the nation after Pennsylvania and Virginia in the amount of garbage it receives from outside the state. However, Pennsylvania has upped its tipping fee to $7.25 a ton and its out-of-state tonnage dropped 14 percent last year, Mr. Farough said.

Mr. Palsrok concedes 21 cents a ton is cheap. But he noted that a similar bill last year that called for raising the tipping fee to $3 a ton failed to pass the Senate. He said one reason the tipping fee is so low in Michigan is because the state has a large number of landfills and is economical in its disposal of trash.

He suggested looking at other alternatives, such as creating a fund to better police border crossings to prevent Canadian haulers from bringing in illegal trash and funding recycling programs that reduce garbage.

Contact George Tanber at: gtanber@theblade.com

or 734-241-3610.

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