Smith and Locals Scope Out Process to Block Waste Transfer Stations
U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), local officials and local activists met with representatives of the Surface Transportation Board (STB) in Smith's Capitol Hill office to express their concerns about the STB review process of applications for potential waste transfer stations.
"Our message was clear," Smith said. "The federal agency charged with accessing, monitoring and approving transfer stations must be aware and able to incorporate the local concerns and objections. We wanted to make sure that there are channels of communication for our people to provide data and information as the STB does its job."
Present at the meeting were Freehold Township Committeeman Anthony Ammiano, Freehold Borough Administrator Joseph Bellina, Larry Zaayenga of the Monmouth County Solid Waste Advisory Council and local activists also known as "Sludge Busters" Annmarie Howley and Laurie Zikos.
Through a loophole in federal law, the rail industry is able to operate certain facilities known as waste transfer stations without state environmental oversight. Over a dozen such sites currently operate in New Jersey alone.
"Key to the meeting was receiving assurances that we will next be able to meet with the Chairman of the Surface Transportation Board and the head of its environmental wing to further pursue aggressive oversight in the review process of pending cases before the board to ensure that the health and safety of the environment and nearby residents is not placed in jeopardy," said Smith. "We will continue to exhaust every avenue in this effort."
"State governments should have every right to be able to review environmental concerns that arise in their individual states," said Smith who is also a cosponsor of HR 1248 which was introduced by Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and aims to exclude solid waste facilities from the jurisdiction of the Surface Transportation Board, thus granting regulatory authority back to the states.
I have serious concerns with a federal regulatory process that could potentially approve a heavy industrial use by literally bypassing all types of state and local control. I applaud Congressman Smith's intercession in this matter," said Freehold Borough Mayor Michael Wilson.
"Applicants for these rail facilities should be required to provide more specific information on their proposed activities. In addition, public notice to the local community needs to be improved, and there should be at least some minimal level of environmental scrutiny. Solid waste handling should not be allowed without additional state oversight," said Larry Zaayenga of the Monmouth County Solid Waste Advisory Council.
Representatives of the Surface Transportation Board made it clear that they would not be able to explicitly discuss the Freehold case. However, the meeting did serve to educate officials and local activists and offer an opportunity to learn about the process of the Surface Transportation Board.
Freehold Township Committeeman Anthony Ammiano called the meeting "very beneficial in increasing our understanding of the legal ramifications as we move forward" and thanked Smith for arranging it.
"Laurie Zikos and I were truly honored to be part of Congressman Smith's meeting with the Surface Transportation Board. It is refreshing to us and I am sure all the citizens in the Freehold area that Congressman Smith has taken such a hands-on-approach to our problem with Ashland Railroad and their potential loosely regulated Solid Waste Transfer Station in our community," said Annmarie Howley. "As always when the health, safety and well-being of any or all citizens are being threatened we can always count on Congressman Smith to step up. We walked away from the meeting with great hope that this loophole in the Interstate Commerce Commission Act of 1995 will be closed."