By Paul Gable
It does not appear that any votes changed sides at yesterday’s Horry County Council solid waste flow control workshop.
Council is currently considering an amendment to the county’s flow control ordinance that would remove construction and demolition debris from regulation.
The workshop allowed the Horry County Solid Waste Authority to make a presentation on the possible effects of the amendment followed by questions and discussion by council members.
The Supreme Court allowed local governments to mandate solid waste flow control with its 2007 ruling in the United Haulers Ass’n. v. Oneida Herkimer Solid Waste Management Authority.
While the Supreme Court has consistently stricken down flow control by private haulers and landfills because it gives unfair economic benefits in violation of the Constitution’s Commerce Clause, it allows revenue generation to be considered a public benefit allowed to the public arena as long as there are more important public benefits also to be derived.
However, yesterday’s discussion was all about how much money the HCSWA could lose if the flow control amendment becomes law. It makes one wonder just how much the real reason for flow control in Horry County was shaded in court documents, in the Sandlands Landfill v. Horry County lawsuit, to allow the county’s flow control ordinance to pass constitutional muster.
Four council members, two on each side of the issue, said “It’s all about the money.” Truer words were never spoken.
Even if revenue generation, as the sole reason for flow control, were allowed by the courts, one must wonder how accurate yesterday’s HCSWA presentation was. It claimed the authority would lose $927,500 in revenue per year of the ordinance amendment is passed, IF the amount of C&D the authority ASSUMES it will lose does in fact go to other landfills.
However, this revenue loss is offset to a great extent by savings the HCSWA will experience in not having to process and bury the trash that it will not receive. When you lose revenue but also automatically reduce expenses, the net cost approaches zero.
The real cost, if any, won’t be known for several years after the amendment is enacted. Additionally, the public benefit of extending the life of the landfill, with some waste going elsewhere, was not factored into the HCSWA presentation.
Well before flow control was established in 2009, the HCSWA found extra money in its coffers to spend approximately $5 million on various parcels of land throughout the county, approximately $1 million on an experimental Clemson University project, a $250,000 donation to the S.C. Children’s Museum, approximately $200,000 on a study of guaranteed funding for the HCSWA as well as its seemingly excessive annual expenditures on public relations, lawyers, engineering and lobbying.
Threats of the county exposing itself to lawsuits, if it passes the amendment, were squelched yesterday. It was established, by a legal expert on flow control, that the county is well within constitutional bounds to remove C&D from flow control regulation and there is virtually no chance that any private entity could prove loss or other grounds to provide standing for a lawsuit if the amendment passes.
The ordinance amendment passed first reading by a 6-5 vote. There is no reason to expect that tonight’s second reading will have a different result.