- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 5, 2002

The Supreme Court yesterday trashed Virginia's last chance to block 25 states from sending tons of garbage to its dumps via truck convoys and barge flotillas.
Without comment, the high court rejected Virginia's public health concerns and ended the long fight by simply leaving in place an appeals court decision that says hauling waste to out-of-state dumps is "interstate commerce" that only Congress may regulate.
State officials had no comment on yesterday's defeat, said Tim Murtaugh, spokesman for Virginia Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore.
"We don't have a decision on how we're going to proceed, if at all," Mr. Murtaugh said.
That ruling technically binds only courts in the 4th Circuit Virginia, North and South Carolina, Maryland, and West Virginia. Virginia is second in the nation to Pennsylvania as a destination for convoys of trucks towing anonymous, unpainted, aluminum rib-sided trailers filled with trash.
Virginia still is waging a separate court fight to limit how high waste can be stacked a dispute over whether containers of garbage and trash may be piled five high to barge it from New York to Norfolk or Richmond for rail shipment to inland landfills.
Virginia would let barge captains pile containers two high, which a Waste Management attorney said yesterday is not economical.
"The stacking limit is important. We want to see the limit go away," said Richmond lawyer Tim Hayes, who represents a barge company as well as a Waste Management facility in Brunswick County, about 50 miles southwest of Richmond.
"We can't have trade wars between the states. We have to have open channels of trade," said Evan M. Tager of Mayer Brown & Platt, lead counsel for Waste Management Holdings.
When the state passed its 1999 law to block trash imports, Gov. James S. Gilmore III vowed, "The home state of Washington, Jefferson and Madison has no intention of becoming the nation's dumping grounds" and legislators jokingly debated changing the "Virginia is for lovers" slogan to "Virginia is for garbage."
In its brief to the Supreme Court, the state said, "Virginia will lose control of the content of its landfills, and its sovereign interest in regulating the public health will be compromised."
About 63 percent of the garbage imported into Virginia comes from Maryand and from New York, which closed its notorious Fresh Kills Landfill just last week.
The most recent state figures show that Virginians themselves produce 17.3 million tons of waste a year and about 4.5 million tons arrives from out of state, mostly by truck because of barging disputes.
Maryland sends the most, 1.7 million tons, or 37.3 percent. New York accounts for 25.5 percent, the District ships 21.3 percent, and North Carolina delivers 11.1 percent of waste from out of state.
Most of it is municipal solid waste, but 7 percent of the shipments is sludge with minute percentages of such things as medical waste, petroleum-soaked soil, and asbestos. Virginia does not report receiving nuclear waste.
Mr. Tager said much of Virginia's opposition to importing garbage was based on misleading reports about how much it was coming from New York.
"While a lot of fuss was made about New York, which is one of the significant exporting states, the bottom line is the waste is coming from neighbor states," Mr. Tager said yesterday. "If every state had to have a place where it could dispose of every category of waste it would result in redundant facilities, take up more land, and be highly inefficient."
Landfills in the state range from one built at Shirley Plantation on the James River in Charles City County, which seeks to make garbage a $2 billion business, to King George just east of Fredericksburg and to Jetersville west of Richmond.

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