SALT LAKE CITY — A panel of lawmakers agreed Friday that a 2-mile buffer should exist between Stericycle and any potential residential neighbors should the medical waste incineration facility move from North Salt Lake to Tooele County.
SB196, sponsored by Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, received unanimous approval by the Senate Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Committee and now advances for further consideration.
The measure would impose a 2-mile buffer between a medical waste incineration facility and any residential development.
Weiler said the goal is to prevent a repeat of the conflict that is playing out between the company and its North Salt Lake neighbors at its current location.
"This bill will not shut down Stericycle," he said. "This bill would not affect what Stericycle is doing."
Weiler said his bill is a compromise from other measures that had sought to invoke more expansive buffer zones or prohibit medical waste incineration facilities altogether.
"Most other states have 1- or 2-mile buffers," he said. "No other state in the country has a 5-mile buffer. In this case, you would look at the buffer at the time the permit is applied for. At the time the permit is issued, there would have to be no residential neighborhood within 2 miles."
Stericycle is negotiating with the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration to purchase 40 acres of its property in a remote location in Tooele County about 6 miles south of U.S. Magnesium.
In the interim, Stericycle has run afoul of state regulators for alleged violations stemming from a failed stack test in December 2011 in which the state contends the company exceeded the pollution thresholds in its permit.
Stericycle and the state Division of Air Quality failed to reach an agreement in a proposed settlement, which bumps the case before an administrative law judge. Opponents of Stericycle said the alleged violations should be incentive enough for the closure of the facility, but at least one clean air advocate indicated Friday that the buffer proposal for Tooele County may be workable.
"We think this bill is a good first step, so we are in support," said Carl Ingwell of the Utah Clean Air Alliance.
While the uneasy relationship between Stericycle and its North Salt Lake neighbors will persist for some time, company spokeswoman Selin Hoboy said, the company must make $1.5 million in pollution control improvements to its North Salt Lake location by October to comply with new federal air pollution rules.
The move to Tooele County, too, would mean the incineration facility will have to meet even more stringent requirements under the federal Clean Air Act because it would be treated as a new facility.
Hoboy said Friday she does not believe Weiler's bill would have any impact on its planned Tooele County location.
"It is a local zoning issue," she said.
The move, however, requires the approval of the Utah Legislature and the governor, and Stericycle must also meet requirements imposed by the state Department of Environmental Quality.
On Thursday, another legislative panel gave approval to a resolution supporting Stericycle's relocation.
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