Utah lawmakers have been none too pleased that Tooele County has become a dumping ground for millions of tons of hazardous and radioactive waste.
They are even more disgruntled that Utah charges less than other states - in some cases far less - for that waste to be dumped here. That's why the legislative Revenue and Taxation Committee began a process Wednesday to re-examine the state's current $2.50 per ton rate for low-level radioactive waste, $4.50 per ton rate for PCBs and $14 to $28 per ton rate for hazardous waste.And the question seems not so much if the fees will be increased but by how much.
Mark Bleazard, a budget analyst for the Legislature, recently attended a national meeting on state hazardous waste fees. When Blea-zard told the conference that Utah charges only $2.50 per ton for low-level radioactive waste, "some of them almost fell out of their chairs," he said.
The convention's discussion centered on the Chem Nuclear facility in Barmwell, S.C., where the state charges $235 per cubit foot for radioactive waste disposal.
It's projected that this year South Carolina will get $56 million from the radioactive fee alone. Utah generates less than $1 million from Envirocare of Utah, the only company licensed to accept low-level radioactive waste here.
Because so many companies want to store radioactive waste in that South Carolina facility, groups of radioactive waste producers have approached South Carolina officials asking if they can "buy in" to a long-range, guaranteed storage operation.
"They want to set up a $1 billion trust fund" with the buy-in cash and then, over 25 years, be assured that there will be space and a constant storage fee for their waste, Bleazard said.
While the market for hazardous waste is dropping, the market for low-level radioactive waste is growing - and if Utah allows such waste here the state could make considerable profit from the industry, legislative staffers told lawmakers.
Besides Chem Nuclear and En-vi-ro-care, there is only one other facility in the nation that accepts the low-level waste: U.S. Ecology in Richland, Wash. Both Chem Nuclear and U.S. Ecology accept far more waste than does Envirocare.
Utah lawmakers will be looking at more than just raising fees on Envirocare. They will also be looking at hazardous waste, medical wastes and even industrial and municipal wastes.
Tooele County is currently home to the Grassy Mountain hazardous waste-PCB landfill and the Aragonite hazardous waste incinerator, both of which are owned by Laid-law, and the Envirocare facility. A second hazardous waste incinerator at Clive has been closed.
In Carbon County, ECDC is a massive commercial operation that accepts municipal and industrial waste.
Last year, almost 2 million tons of waste was disposed of at the Utah commercial dumps, some 1.4 million tons of which goes to ECDC.
Lawmakers predict that any effort to restructure the state fees will become one of the most contentious issues facing the 1999 Legislature in January.