Thinking about rural jobs, landfills, and Senate Bill 328

I'm a bit torn over this S328, and I admit, I haven't read the bill (I'm just not wonky enough I guess). You see, I think expanding landfills, especially those that handle "outside" waste streams, could be a good thing for our state, if and only if it's done properly.

In my line of work I get to see things most other people never even hear about. Take landfills for instance. When's the last time you got to watch one be constructed from the bare dirt up? I've done it, more than once. Modern landfills are extremely safe compared to how things were done even twenty years ago. With proper regulation and monitoring most will never cause a problem and if they do, it can be caught and addressed quickly with minimal harm to the surrounding communities. Re-opening old landfills is another issue entirely, with lots of problems to be addressed.

I also happen to know a bit about the economic advantages of a large compost pile, which is really all a landfill is. Landfills produce methane, one of the most potent greenhouse gases around. Landfill methane is captured and often burned off, like the gas flares you see in pictures from an oilfield, but in many places, including several across North Carolina, that captured gas is being put to use as renewable energy.

Burning methane to spin a turbine is far better than simply releasing it into the atmosphere, and it produces something useful in the process - electricity, and that's just one of several ways to put civilization's waste to work for us rather than against us.

Of course all that technology requires human inputs of labor, often highly skilled labor, to keep it functioning and properly maintained, so landfills also create jobs. Jobs that will be hanging around for a while and can't be outsourced, so overall I'm inclined to support the idea of managing other people's trash for them, but there's a catch.

A properly maintained and operated landfill doesn't stink any more than a properly functioning farm, nor do they leak. It's only when oversight and maintenance is neglected that we run into problems, and given the people we have running things in Raleigh right now and their ideological - and stupid, I might add - opposition to both regulation and public works(as opposed to private contracts), I'm pretty sure we can't trust them to do this the right way.

We live in a word filled with technology that offers us great opportunities to turn negatives into positives, and this is one of them, but it requires constant vigilance and regular maintenance that cannot be ignored or neglected in the name of a quarterly profit statement or shareholder dividends.

So, on one hand I see great potential for good in the idea of mega-landfills and solving waste processing issues for other states. Doing so could create quite a few good paying, sustainable jobs for our rural communities. On the other hand, I have zero faith in the ability or willingness of the current Republican controlled legislature to properly understand the issues involved, much less act and budget accordingly, and weakening our standards is absolutely a move in the wrong direction.


Good food for thought

My experience with landfills is from the perspective of an elected official in Orange County. Without going into all the details, the bottom line has been simple: Landfills get sited next to poor communities, many of which are minority communities. And then, as a practical matter, those communities get slammed economically. Houses become unsellable, noise from haulers and earth movers makes life unbearable, and the income goes "somewhere else." As is often the case, poor people carry the burden of risk while Big Business rakes in the dough.

All that said, I agree with you in principle that there's potential in waste management for innovation, jobs, and revenues. The real question is your last one: Can we trust Republicans to manage such potential effectively so that regular people don't get run over by rich people on their way to the bank. My take is "no." Republicans have shown they will screw everyone and everyone who doesn't have white skin and a fat wallet.


Which is why right after I posted this here, I signed the petition.

Writing is how I think, otherwise, I'm slowly learning, all my thoughts are just a big jumbled mess and not even I can sort them out sometimes.

Thanks for helping my process.


"...the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be."

Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from Birmingham Jail

Where is the petition?

This bill goes too far. For instance, there is no need to dump waste 1500 feet from conservation areas. The bill does not read as though it is a responsible and prudent waste management tact; it reeks of raping our resources for some special interests to profit.

I want to see the petition you referred to. Thanks in advance for a link!

"Just Say No" to landfill bill

Thank you, Thurman, for the petition site, and for opening the discussion. There is no expectation that the Senate will not pass the bill on third reading on Monday night, so on we go to the House.

The Solid Waste Management Act of 2007 was a carefully studied, carefully considered, unanimously passed bill that gives the waste industry plenty of room to develop responsible landfills. The industry need not undermine the health and safety, and long term economic potential of our state by drastically changing the rules that were thoroughly considered and implemented a short time ago.

On 6/6 the second version of S328 was unveiled, hot off the press, at the 9:00 am meeting of the State Committee On Agriculture/Environment/Natural Resources. Told that the meeting had to be over by 10:00 am, the committee voted on a 19 page document that they had just seen, in an hour's time. That timing is one example of how the waste industry hopes to slide in what they want.

Though some changes have been made to the bill since, here is an eye opening Analysis of S328, Solid Waste Management Act of 2013 (June 7, 2013) Chart prepared by Grady McCallie, NC Conservation Network and Chandra Taylor, Southern Environmental Law Center of NC.

There could not be enough changes to make this a responsible bill. This is a clear case of "Just Say No". Nor is this a partisan bill ... both sides are vulnerable to the powerful persuasion of the landfill lobby. That a DENR representative would say that this is a viable bill, when buffers have changed from 5 or 2 miles from sensitive waters to 1500 feet, is another indication.

Food for thought about mega-landfills, vs. local landfills serving a county or several counties:
*The EPA does not dispute the fact that landfills leak.
*After a landfill is constructed, there are a handful of workers; not a "jobs creator".
*Mega landfills undermine "reduce, reuse, recycle", enabling those states that are happy to "just ship it south".
*There are proven health risks and quality of life issues for those living near mega landfills. And they stink.
*"Gasification" is another word for incineration, posing yet more health problems. *There is always a new "state of the art" prototype, most of which have not proven effective.
*Remediation is nearly impossible, as well as extremely costly. Counties would likely end up footing the bill. (And yes, they would likely be the poor counties).

The fact that there are so many important issues that need attention now makes us vulnerable to having this terrible bill pass with little oversight, as is the industry intent. Please do all you can to contact House members to advise them of the importance of voting against this bill.