A garbage hauler has charged that the Davis County Solid Waste Recovery District will be in violation of federal antitrust laws if it goes through with a plan to solicit out-of-county garbage haulers to dump at the Davis burn plant.
J. Paul McGrath, a New York attorney representing Browning-Ferris Industries, has sent a letter to the district asking it to stop plans to entice outside haulers, particularly those from Weber County, by charging them less at the burn plant than area landfills. BFI hauls garbage in Davis County and operates the Weber County landfill.If the district goes through with its plans, McGrath said it would be engaging in predatory competition. The company has not ruled out a lawsuit if the district doesn't change its plans.
BFI District Manager Jeanne Babin said, "It's a double whammy. By the burn plant moving into Weber County and offering an artificially low rate to the patrons of my landfill, I feel like I am being hit from both sides."
Babin said the plan would hurt BFI because haulers would be lured away from the Weber County Landfill, which her company operates. The loss in business could amount to $700 a day. At the same time, inside the Davis special service district, which includes all areas except Bountiful, BFI is required to take garbage to the waste-to-steam plant and pay substantially higher tipping fees.
The burn plant's tipping fee is $25 per ton, but District Manager Jim Young said rates lower than the $9 a ton charged at the Weber County Landfill are likely to be offered. Salt Lake County haulers could also be enticed by rates less than the $6 a ton charged at the county's two landfills.
The district has already invited private garbage haulers and Ogden City to consider dumping at the plant. No contracts have been tendered and no specific prices discussed. By enticing business from outside of the district BFI officials said that the district will forfeit its immunity from antitrust laws in those areas.
"When the district steps so far beyond its authorized jurisdiction and assumes the role of predatory, commercial competitor it loses any immunity it may have had in its own jurisdiction," McGrath said.
BFI's concern follows a vote by the district board to solicit garbage from outside the district. Young said that the plant needs about 50 tons of extra garbage a day to help keep tipping fees stable. The more garbage, the more money can be made by selling steam the plant produces to nearby Hill Air Force Base. The demand for extra trash is particularly pronounced in winter months when Davis County residents don't produce as much junk, but Hill Air Force base needs more steam.
Young said that the plant wants to solicit garbage until 1993, when county garbage output is expected to catch up to the incinerator's capacity.
Board Chairman Jay Dewell said that while he understands the plan might put BFI an economic disadvantage, he doesn't think it's in violation of law.
"Of course if it is illegal we won't do it. Our attorney so far says it isn't. If it is legal we will do it. It is to the economic advantage of the people of Davis County for us to go ahead and load that plant," Dewell said.
While on the surface a plan that gives Weber County haulers a substantial break over prices that Davis County haulers pay and pass on to residents, Davis County residents will win in the long run, Dewell said. Babin said that the plan is simply a rate-payer subsidy for her competition.
"Hopefully, we can get people to understand that what we are doing is by bringing some waste in we can process for nothing, because we can get steam out of it," Dewell said.
The district might not have to solicit as much extra trash if enforcement of haulers who take Davis County trash to lower-priced landfills was stiffened, garbage haulers said. There were documented problems with enforcement last year.
"If they are trying to say all we have to do is enforce it and load the plant, I think they are in error. If they are trying to say our enforcement should be better, I can't disagree with that," Dewell said.