September 11, 2006

Ontario, Michigan reach agreement to end solid waste exports by 2010

An agreement reached at the end of August by Ontario Environment Minister Laurel Broten and U.S. senators Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin will end the shipment of residential municipal solid waste (MSW) from Ontario to Michigan by 2010. In return, Michigan has agreed to stop its drive to pass legislation banning waste shipments from Ontario.

In a letter to the two senators, Broten said the Ontario communities currently sending MSW to Michigan (Toronto and the regional municipalities of York, Peel and Durham) "have committed to reduce these shipments by 20% by the end of 2007, by 40% by the end of 2008 and eliminate them altogether by the end of 2010, using the 2006 baseline of 1.34 million tonnes of municipal waste shipped.

"This means an elimination of about 2.78 million tonnes of waste over the four-year period that would otherwise have been shipped from municipalities in Ontario to landfill sites in Michigan," the minister continued.

In their response, Stabenow and Levin expressed their satisfaction with the commitment and agreed not to pursue amendments to this year's Homeland Security appropriations bill, or pursue similar current or future measures consistent with their constitutional duties.

In March, Michigan passed legislation intended to ban the disposal of Canadian waste in Michigan landfills providing the U.S. federal government passed enabling legislation. U.S. bill HR 2491, currently before the House of Representatives would, if passed, give states the power to make laws restricting the receipt and disposal of foreign MSW until the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator implements regulations enforcing the Canada-U.S. Agreement Concerning Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Waste. This bilateral agreement was amended in 1992 to cover MSW. The bill would require approval by the U.S. Senate, as well as final signed authorization by the U.S. president.

The amendments to the Homeland Security appropriations bill proposed by the two Michigan senators would not only have affected waste exports to the U.S., they would have had far-reaching consequences to Canada-U.S. trade. Levin's proposal would have closed the border to waste trucks within nine months if the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection could not prove that screening for chemical, nuclear, biological and radiological weapons is as effective for waste trucks as it is for other commercial vehicles. The other amendment, introduced by Stabenow, would have required personnel and equipment for inspections of international shipments of municipal solid waste and would have levied a fee to offset these inspection costs. The result would be a fee of approximately $420 on every truck shipping waste across the border.

The Ontario Waste Management Association (OWMA) commended the Ontario-Michigan agreement, noting that ending legislative initiatives in the U.S. to stop waste export from Ontario is an important step in removing uncertainty and providing Ontario with the time to create a 'Made-in-Ontario' solution. "It is critical at this time to continue with the waste management regulatory and Environmental Assessment Act reforms that will allow Ontario municipalities and industry to manage waste within our province," said OWMA president Rob Cook.

In 2005, municipalities and industrial, commercial and institutional (IC&I) sources generated approximately 13.3 million tonnes of solid waste, about 3.3 million tonnes of which was diverted through 3R programs. Of the remaining ten million tonnes, 60% (about six million tonnes) was managed within Ontario and the other 40% (about four million tonnes) was exported to the U.S., mainly to Michigan.

More information is available on the Ministry of Environment Web site, www.ene.gov.on.ca, Michigan Senator Stabenow's Web site, www.senate.gov/~stabenow/, or from Rob Cook at the OWMA, 905/791-9500.

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