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Issue Position: Canadian Trash Update

Issue Position

Location: Unknown

Issue Position: Canadian Trash Update

Ground Breaking Agreement Stops 1.34 million metric tons of Trash

In August of 2006, Senator Stabenow and Senator Levin entered into a ground breaking agreement with Ontario officials to phase out and end the dumping of 1.34 million metric tons of municipally-managed trash being dumped in Michigan each year, which is all the trash under the control of Toronto and other Ontario municipalities.

The agreement is between Senator Stabenow and Senator Levin with Ontario's Minister of Environment. It also has the full commitment of the City of Toronto and the other key Ontario municipalities that are shipping trash to Michigan. It covers Ontario's "municipally-managed" solid waste shipments to Michigan over the next four years, which is trash under the control of Ontario and its municipalities. It does not cover other waste under private contract that the Ontario government and its municipalities do not control.

Trash phased out over four years: 2007-2010

Under the terms of the Stabenow-Levin agreement, the Ontario governments will phase-out the importation of this trash over a four year period - a 20% reduction by the end of 2007, a 40% reduction by the end of 2008, and a complete stop to all of this trash by 2010. In addition, Ontario's municipalities will not renew their existing contracts to ship trash to Michigan.

In exchange and if the strict terms of this agreement are met, Senator Levin and Senator Stabenow have agreed to not pursue their amendments which passed the Senate as part of the Homeland Security bill. If for any reason the terms of the agreement are not met, Senators Stabenow and Levin would renew their legislative efforts to stop the trash.

Amount of Reduction
20% of municipally-managed trash shipments stopped
40% of municipally-managed trash shipments stopped
100% of municipally-managed trash shipments stopped

Canadians implement agreement to reduce trash exports to Michigan

The Ontario government has been working with its local municipalities and private waste service companies to create new capacity in order to reduce its waste exports to Michigan and comply with the Stabenow-Levin agreement. The Ontario government recently reported that "the key actions necessary to meet Ontario's commitments for the 40% reduction required by the end of 2008 have already been completed." These actions include:

Approving 47 million metric tons of new disposal capacity

* A 17 million metric ton expansion of the Niagara Waste Systems landfill to take up to 850,000 metric tons of waste per year from the Industrial, Commercial and Institutional (IC&I) sector.
* An 18.75 million metric ton expansion of the Warwick landfill in south west Ontario to take up to 750,000 metric tons annually from the IC&I sector.
* A 10.9 million metric ton expansion of the Green Lane landfill in south west Ontario to provide additional landfill capacity for the province, including Toronto.
* A pellet facility to divert 200,000 metric tons of waste a year from landfill (Dongara).
* A pilot project involving plasma arc gasification to take 85 metric tons of waste per day and convert it to electricity (Plasco).

Approving a new state-of-the-art composting facility - Orgaworld - that will take 40,000 metric tons of waste per year from municipalities, including the Toronto area Region of York, and ultimately expand to 150,000 metric tons per year.

Pursuing future disposal capacity:

* An existing landfill in Ottawa is proceeding through the approval process to add up to 3.6 million metric tons of Ontario's IC&I waste.
* Another landfill near Ottawa is proceeding through the approval process to add an additional 18.7 million metric tons of disposal capacity for Ontario's waste.

Developing a proposal for an energy-from-waste facility in the Toronto area Regions of York and Durham that would manage over 13 million metric tons of waste over a 35 year period.

The Fight to Stop the Trash

In 2003, the City of Toronto announced that it would begin shipping all of its municipal waste to the State of Michigan, and many other municipalities soon followed suit. Within a month of Toronto's announcement, Senator Stabenow began the fight to stop this trash -- introducing legislation in the Senate, organizing an online petition which 175,000 citizens signed urging the EPA and Bush Administration to enforce our treaty with Canada to stop the trash, and securing inspection equipment at our border to address homeland security concerns

Last year, Senator Stabenow and Senator Levin passed two critical amendments in the Senate to the Homeland Security Appropriations bill. Senator Stabenow's amendment would impose stiff inspection fees on Canadian haulers. ($420 per truck @ 350 trucks per day). Senator Levin's amendment would halt the Canadian trash shipments if the Department of Homeland Security could not demonstrate that they are screened as effectively as other cargo. Despite passing this amendment in the Senate on four different occasions, the House of Representatives had opposed Senator's Levin's amendment every time. And it's unclear whether the House would have passed the inspection fees as part of the final bill.

These efforts, the efforts of local and state officials, and the passage of these Senate amendments finally got the attention of the Canadian government --enough to bring them to the table. Representatives of Ontario's Minister of the Environment, Laurel Broten, contacted Senator Stabenow to begin negotiations to phase out and ultimately stop the municipal trash, from being dumped in Michigan.

Questions and Answers

Without this agreement, how much trash would be imported into Michigan?

Without this agreement, over 2.78 million metric tons more trash would come into Michigan between now and 2010, and even more after that date. In addition, Ontario's municipalities could renew their contracts with Michigan's landfills and continue sending their trash to Michigan beyond 2010.

What does the Stabenow-Levin Agreement cover?

Ontario ships 1.34 million metric tons of municipally-managed solid waste into Michigan each year, based on figures provided by the Province of Ontario for 2005. The Stabenow-Levin agreement will stop 100 percent of this municipally-managed solid waste by 2010.

What is municipally-managed solid waste?

It is all the waste that comes under the control of their major municipalities and the City of Toronto. It is the type of waste that most people think of as garbage that is picked up by municipal employees or government contractors in garbage cans behind houses and bins that sit behind many commercial establishments.

How much waste is not covered by the agreement?

Michigan also receives non-municipally managed solid waste from Ontario. Canadians call it Industrial, Commercial and Institutional (IC&I) waste and in Michigan, most of it falls under the general category of "municipal solid waste." IC&I waste is not managed or controlled by the Ontario municipalities; rather it is managed under private contracts. For example, IC&I waste includes waste from factories, construction sites, and other commercial entities. This IC&I waste accounts for approximately 2.26 million metric tons that come into Michigan each year, based on 2005 figures.

Is this a good deal for Michigan?

The Flint Journal called this deal a "major breakthrough." Other papers said it was "long overdue", "welcome news" "real progress" "realistic, and "most likely to work". The bottom line is that this agreement is stopping millions of tons of garbage from being dumped in our state.

Despite all the efforts of Senator Stabenow, Senator Levin, our state legislative leaders, and so many others, the trash has continued. That's why this agreement is such a great victory -- it means a real and measurable reduction in trash crossing our borders and it can't be challenged in court, as a federal law can be. It's not subject to the uncertainties of the legislative process and it means that much of the Canadian trash will be stopped and even future contracts for new waste won't be renewed.

What more can be done to stop all the trash from Canada?

Senator Stabenow has repeatedly demanded that the Bush Administration use its authority to stop the trash by enforcing our existing treaty with Canada. Not only has the Administration refused to enforce the treaty, but also, by their inaction, have opposed legislative efforts in the House and Senate to stop or restrict the flow of waste across our borders. The Bush Administration could enforce the treaty today if they chose to do so.

Legislation was introduced in the last Congress and in this Congress to require that this treaty be enforced. Senator Stabenow supports this legislation. However, even if this bill became law, most feel the legislation would be subject to a lengthy court challenge under international laws that would take years to resolve.

The Michigan Legislature is also addressing the financial incentives that make the exporting of trash profitable for Canada and other states. Even when taking into account transportation costs, it is still less expensive for Canada and many other states to dump their trash to Michigan. A Canadian official was quoted as saying, "The reason we're in Michigan is [because] nothing is cheaper than Michigan." As the Stabenow-Levin agreement is implemented and Ontario's exports of municipally-managed waste reduced, it is critical that this financial incentive be addressed so that this reduction is not simply offset by other imported waste.

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