- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 10, 2002

RICHMOND With the James River as a backdrop, Gov. Mark R. Warner yesterday announced a plan to impose a fee on all trash dumped at Virginia landfills.
Mr. Warner, a Democrat, chose Richmond's James River Park as the setting for his announcement that money generated by the new fee of $5 a ton on landfill waste will go to a variety of state environmental programs. A portion also will be set aside for grants to local governments for similar purposes.
Mr. Warner suggested that the new fee, known as a "tipping fee," is a way of compensating for Virginia's role as a major importer of other states' garbage. He noted that Virginia is the "the No. 2 importer of out-of-state trash" in the United States and that a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision precludes the state from simply outlawing the practice.
Mr. Warner said the Supreme Court ruling requires that "all trash is treated fairly and equally," so Virginia residents, companies and localities dumping trash in landfills also will have to pay the state fee. However, he said, his plan to return money from the fees to localities would ensure that "the vast majority of local governments will see a net increase in funds."
Moreover, he said, "For too long, Virginia has neglected to provide adequate resources to protect our precious natural resources." Funds raised by the new fee will help redress that neglect, he said.
Proceeds of the tipping fee expected to amount to $76 million a year will be administered by a new program, the Commonwealth Conservation Fund.
Mr. Warner's proposal would give 40 percent of the money to two state programs for open-space preservation the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation and the Virginia Outdoors Foundation. Thirty-five percent would fund grants to local governments for natural-resources uses, and 19 percent would go to the state's Water Quality Improvement Fund.
The Virginia Brownfields Restoration and Economic Redevelopment Assistance Fund, a program to revitalize blighted urban areas, would receive 5 percent.
Local governments would likely pay about 25 percent of the cost of the program, Mr. Warner said. They would get money back under the brownfields, open-space and clean-water programs, in addition to the 35 percent due them through the grants fund, he said.
Mr. Warner said he believes his proposal will enjoy "broad bipartisan support" in the General Assembly. In particular, he noted that House of Delegates Speaker S. Vance Wilkins Jr., Amherst Republican, has been a long-term supporter of land-conservation efforts. Other leaders of both houses of the Republican-led General Assembly already have endorsed the plan, he said.
One state lawmaker expressed his dissent almost immediately. In a statement released within minutes of Mr. Warner's announcement, Sen. Bill Bolling, Hanover Republican, said the plan "does not represent proper public policy for the commonwealth."
Mr. Bolling said he opposes Mr. Warner's plan because the fees "will inevitably be passed on to consumers and result in higher waste-disposal fees for every Virginian." In addition, he said, the state will become dependent on income from fees paid by out-of-state disposers.
The environmental group Sierra Club-Virginia Chapter also expressed opposition to the plan. Chapter Director Glen Besa said the group supports tipping fees, but believes those fees should be used to clean up existing landfills.
"We support all the programs he wants to fund," Mr. Besa said of the governor's proposal. But "there are hundreds of millions of dollars in liabilities associated with landfill-cleanup costs, and not one dime of this money is dedicated to that."


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