PALLONE, NEW JERSEY OFFICIALS: STATE MUST HAVE AUTHORITY TO REGULATE SOLID WASTE FACILITIES
Standing in an open field in Freehold that could soon be replaced by a solid waste facility, U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) today highlighted the need for a federal law that would allow New Jersey to regulate these facilities for environmental, health and safety reasons. The New Jersey congressman was joined by New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Lisa Jackson, State Senator Ellen Karcher, Monmouth Freeholder Barbara McMorrow and Freehold Mayor Dorothy Avallone who all oppose such a facility in Freehold.
The New Jersey officials voiced concern over the practice by some waste handlers and railroad companies to exploit a so-called loophole in federal law to set up unregulated waste transfer facilities. Under the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act of 1995, the Surface Transportation Board (STB) has exclusive jurisdiction over "transportation by rail carriers" and the ability to grant federal preemption over other laws at any level -- local, state, or federal -- that might impede such transportation. Pallone said Congress intended such authority to extend only to transportation by rail, not to the operation of facilities that are merely sited next to rail operations.
In New Jersey, approximately 15 railroad transfer facilities have been proposed or are now in operation, one of which handles hazardous waste. The state has tried repeatedly to impose regulations on the trash piles in an effort to protect those New Jerseyans who live and work near them. In Freehold, Ashland Railroad (ASRR) has filed for a Notice of Exemption which would clear the way for Ashland to create a Solid Waste transfer station on the 10 acres of open land next to the rail line.
Last February, Pallone introduced H.R. 4821, The Solid Waste Environmental Regulation Clarification Affecting Railroads Act, in the U.S. House of Representatives that will ensure solid waste facilities next to rail lines fall under the same regulations as every other waste facility, which would allow New Jersey to regulate these facilities. U.S. Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) introduced companion legislation in the U.S. Senate.
"The residents of Freehold should have some say in what happens to this land," Pallone said. "I can't imagine that many residents would support putting giant mounds of garbage on this land without any oversight or regulation from the state. Companies should no longer be allowed to use this loophole to get around state and local regulations. Our legislation will give New Jersey a say in what happens to this land, so that we can protect both the environment and the health of area residents."
"I commend our congressional delegation's timely and thoughtful response to this issue that is so important to our environment,'' Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Lisa P. Jackson said. "Our goal is to protect the health and safety of our residents. This legislation will give us the ability to hold rail transfer stations to the same protective standards that we hold all solid waste facilities.''
"Unregulated waste facilities, whether on a rail line or not, are bad for New Jersey communities like Freehold. States and localities need the ability to regulate these facilities to protect the health and safety of residents. I testified last week before the Surface Transportation Board to encourage them to ensure those rights," Lautenberg said in a prepared response. "While our bill would give states the tools they need, the Board could resolve this problem far sooner and I urged them to act quickly."