Energy & Environment

Casella opposes proposed increase in franchise fee

20110318_trashBinsSliderThe state’s largest waste hauler opposes a fee increase that would be used help small recycling centers retool for impending changes in solid waste disposal.

On Tuesday, Casella Waste Systems asked the Senate Finance Committee to strip a provision designed to raise money for smaller recycling businesses that will need to make capital investments in their facilities.

The full Senate will take up a bill designed to subsidize the capital costs of collecting and processing materials that will soon be banned from the state’s landfill under the state’s new recycling law. The bill, S.208, proposes raising the franchise fee haulers pay to bring trash to the state’s landfill by $1 to kick start the new system.

Casella, a $500 million company based in Rutland, says the fee increase should be removed from the bill. Instead, the state should redirect its existing revenue to help small haulers, the company said.

“They want to develop a funding stream and they are doing it on a declining revenue source,” Joseph Fusco, vice president of Casella Waste Systems, told VTDigger on Tuesday. “The more successful the state is in increasing the recycling rate, the less sustainable the franchise tax will be.”

Lawmakers would have to offer a floor amendment to change the bill (which is scheduled for a vote Wednesday), according to Sen. Tim Ashe, D/P Chittenden, the committee’s chairman.

Mandatory composting for some large food producers begins July 1, and next year all recyclables will be banned from the landfill. This is part of a plan to increase the state diversion rate, or the amount of material kept out of the landfill, from a stagnant 36 percent to 50 percent over the next several years.

Lawmakers’ intent is to provide more money to small, rural solid waste districts in need of new equipment and infrastructure, such as new trucks, to deal with the added requirements. The Agency of Natural Resources will decide where the new revenue will go, according to the bill.

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“We’re asking for rural areas to maintain a competitive level of service,” said Sen. Mark MacDonald, D-Orange, a member of the committee. “And the larger company is suggesting that maybe that dollar shouldn’t be collected.”

The bill sets up a special account, funded in part through an increase in the waste disposal franchise tax from $6 to $7. (The fee, which has not changed since the 1980s, is placed on each ton of trash brought to a transfer station.)

Casella also recommended allowing more time for stakeholders to tweak a proposed pilot project, which will require some facilities to accept and recycle construction and demolition debris starting July 1. That includes wood, wallboard, asphalt shingles and metal, according to the bill.

Casella said it has the capability to comply with the standards in the pilot program.

“It’s not opposition to this,” Fusco said. “It’s saying let’s do it the best way possible.”

The bill requires municipalities to join a solid waste district to share waste disposal and recycling infrastructure. Towns that do not join one of the districts will not receive state money to prepare for the new system.

The Vermont League of Cities and Towns opposes the mandate to require towns to join solid waste districts because some towns already have programs in place that meet state regulatory standards.

Those towns save money by managing their programs independently rather than sharing resources with their districts, according to Karen Horn, a lobbyist for the organization.

“They are doing the job for considerably less money than their towns would be spending if they were in the districts,” she said, adding that the organization has not evaluated those claims.

Lawmakers want to consolidate districts to simplify reporting requirements to measure the program’s progress and allow towns to share resources to save money.

DSM Environmental Services, a consulting firm from Windsor, last year released a report detailing the phase-in of the state’s universal recycling program set up under Act 148.

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John Herrick

About John

John Herrick joined VTDigger in June 2013 as an intern working on the searchable campaign finance database and is now VTDigger's energy and environment reporter. He graduated from the University of Vermont with a bachelor’s degree in political science and a minor in Spanish. He wrote for the Vermont Cynic, university’s student newspaper, before interning and later freelancing for the Burlington Free Press.

Email: [email protected]

Follow John on Twitter @herrickjohnny

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