WASHINGTON (April 24, 2000)—The federal government is content with allowing the states to handle their own scrap tire abatement problems in their own way.
The last movement for federal scrap tire legislation came from the Rhode Island congressional delegation, which was motivated by the massive tire pile in their state, at the town of Smithfield. With the death last October of Rhode Island Republican Sen. John Chafee, longtime chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, the last impetus for such legislation on Capitol Hill died, too.
However, bills just passed or under active consideration in seven states demonstrate beyond a doubt that illegal stockpiles are still out there and that markets for recycled tire-derived products and materials still need to be developed.
Some of the bills are the product of cordial negotiation among tire makers and dealers, recyclers, legislators and environmentalists. Others represent a continuing battle between adherents and opponents of tire-derived fuel, or between those who believe new-tire fees for abatement of scrap tires are a necessity, and those who consider them an insult.
One of the most contentious fights over scrap tire laws was in Maryland, where the $1 fee on every new tire sold was set to lapse on July 1.
While Maryland tire dealers and environmentalists still disagree hotly over the value of TDF, they were united in their opposition to losing the tire fee, and further mobilized by the sudden appearance of 600 scrap tires dumped in Lower Beaverdam Creek near Landover, Md.
The tire dealers were furious over a number of bills the Maryland legislature considered, such as one to divert $9 million from the state´s scrap tire fund for a project to remove nutrients from sewage, and another mandating penalties of up to $25,000 in fines and five years in prison for even minor infractions of state scrap tire laws.
Eventually, the Maryland Tire Dealers Association and others were able to get a bill through the Maryland Senate to permanently extend the $1 fee and earmark it entirely toward scrap tire cleanup. It looked as if the bill was a shoo-in for passage just before the assembly adjourned for the year on April 10.
But then the bill moved into the relevant House committee, where Delegate Kenneth D. Schisler—the original author of the bill to sunset the tire fee—tried an end-run around the tire fee extension bill. While most of the bill´s supporters were at other hearings, Mr. Schisler managed to get the fee extension bill reported unfavorably.
MTDA President Mike Kress and other supporters worked frantically to cut a deal with Mr. Schisler and the committee as the last hours of the session ticked away. Eventually, they got an agreement for a four-year extension of the fee at 40 cents a tire, which was what became law just before the assembly adjourned.
"We´ve got a fee, 40 cents a tire for four years, and it will be used exclusively on used-tire cleanup and recycling," Mr. Kress said. "It should generate a couple million a year, which is about in line with what was effectively going toward the scrap tire problem before, with the rest diverted toward other agendas."
Mr. Kress also is hopeful about a scrap tire study—a follow-up to one conducted in 1992-93—which the Maryland Department of the Environment and Maryland Environmental Services will do this summer.
The MTDA and the Rubber Manufacturers Association will be represented on the study group, Mr. Kress noted, as will TDF producers, cement kiln operators, various recyclers, tire haulers and local governments. The study group will examine every aspect of the current scrap tire recycling system in Maryland, he said, with a view "toward creating a proactive tire-recycling system."
Passing a new scrap tire law in Alabama was more peaceful than in Maryland, though not without glitches.
The Alabama scrap tire bill, signed into law last June, creates four different classes of scrap tire handlers—scrap tire receiver, scrap tire collection facility, fleet tire receiver and scrap tire transporter—and creates an annual state licensing system for all four classes.
Fees for the licenses are $37.50 for scrap tire receivers, transporters and collection facilities, or $375 for fleet tire receivers, with a $500 fine for any such entity that fails to obtain a license.
Also, the law creates a Scrap Tire Study Commission to generate a report to the legislature by 2001. It designates that a representative each from the Scrap Tire Management Council and the Alabama Tire Dealers Association will serve on the commission, as will representatives from relevant state and local government agencies.
The commission´s charge, among other things, is to determine the number and size of all scrap tire piles in Alabama; research possible methods for removing them; and develop proposals for the safe removal and end-use of the tires.
Michael Blumenthal, vice president and executive director of the STMC, said he was pleased that his organization was included on the Alabama commission.
"States are recognizing the value of the (STMC) and getting us involved at the highest level of their programs," Mr. Blumenthal said.
The only problem with the Alabama law is that no state agency has jurisdiction over it, said Kim Rice of the Department of Public Health.
However, each county commission must choose its own enforcement officer, and any county license inspector, health officer or public health officer, she added. Any law enforcement officer, or any employee of the Department of Revenue may issue citations under the law.
Also just having approved a new scrap tire law is West Virginia, whose stated goal is "to try to do something with the mountains of tires we have, then come back down to a maintenance level to properly handle the tires we generate on a daily basis," said Russ Rader, Tire Remediation Environment Cleanup coordinator within the West Virginia Division of Highways.
The bill, effective June 11, directs the Division of Highways to promulgate rules, regulations and procedures for tire pile elimination and identification of recycling sources; the Health Department to work with the Division of Highways and the state prisons to remove the tires; and the Division of Motor Vehicles to add a $5 charge on all vehicle titling until the Commissioner of Highways can certify to the legislature that scrap tire piles no longer exist in the state.
The Division of Highways has the authority to inspect private property for tire piles and bill the property owner for the cost of cleanup, Mr. Rader said.
Other states are still in the throes of promulgating new scrap tire laws or reforming their old ones. In California, the state assembly is mulling a bill to raise the current new tire fee to $2 per tire from the current 25 cents.
There is a big impetus within the state to clean up its tire piles, particularly the giant pile near Westley, Calif., once owned by the now-defunct Oxford Energy Corp. A massive report issued last year by the California Integrated Waste Management Board recommended "an aggressive two-year program to eliminate all known major illegal waste tire piles and develop a program to help local governments find and eliminate the remaining minor illegal tire piles."
Even with the existing tire fee of only 25 cents, California already has one of the best scrap tire recycling infrastructures in the U.S., Mr. Blumenthal noted, with TDF, civil engineering applications and rubberized asphalt all well-established in the state.
"With the passage of an increased fee, they can resolve their remaining stockpiles and focus on market development," he said. The assembly should act on the scrap tire bill sometime this year, he added.
Mr. Blumenthal was also enthusiastic over a draft bill in New York to amend existing scrap tire legislation. This bill would create a state council on scrap tire management made up of representatives from tire recycling, tire manufacturing, state government and the environmental movement.
"The bill would establish a three-pronged program of abatement, education and market development," Mr. Blumenthal said. It was created in a series of discussions which began in November 1998, he added.
The consensus bill is only one of several scrap tire bills before the New York legislature, including one from the Attorney General´s office, said Janet Matthews of the New York Legislative Commission on Solid Waste Management. "If we can get the governor or the Department of the Environment interested in scrap tires, there is no shortage of bills on that subject," she said.
In other states, more modest changes are taking place. Utah has made some technical changes to its scrap tire fund, and the legislature has paid about $1 million into that fund, said Ralph Bohn, solid waste section manager within the Division of Solid and Hazardous Waste in Utah´s Department of Environmental Quality.
"The tire fund we have which supports our subsidies to tire recyclers went into the red," Mr. Bohn said. "$1 million was taken out years ago to fund low-interest loans to tire recyclers."
The STMC "would prefer they would not offer price supports," said Mr. Blumenthal about the Utah scrap tire program. "We want to create a free-market system, in which tires are bought and sold in the marketplace."
In Louisiana, a state representative has won committee approval for a five-cent hike to the state´s scrap tire fee which the legislator believes will never go into effect.
Since 1993, Louisiana has had a $2 fee on each new tire purchase, according to the state´s Department of Environmental Quality. Half of the fee has gone to waste tire processors, with the rest going to tire pile cleanup.
But since all the known tire piles in Louisiana are gone, the DEQ said, the scrap tire fund will end this year with a $3 million surplus.
The bill by Rep. Billy Montgomery, D-Haughton, would raise the subsidy payments to waste tire handlers who use tires for TDF, boiler fuel and other waste-to-energy purposes. The five-cent increase in the tire fee would be eliminated as soon as that subsidy was increased.