Beaufort News

Beaufort County officials worry as Senate bill on trash disposal advances

National waste corporations are gaining ground in their push to win a larger share of the garbage market in South Carolina in a proposal that some Beaufort County officials say will lead to higher property taxes.

A state Senate committee voted 9-4 Thursday for a bill that blocks counties from requiring local waste to be dumped in a county's own local landfill. Though Beaufort County does not have a landfill, local officials say it would lead to less control of the county's trash-disposal options, giving garbage companies a stronger hand in price negotiations.

The bill already has been approved by the House and needs only Senate approval before it would go to Gov. Nikki Haley.

Beaufort County officials say the measure would deny the county an important bargaining tool with Waste Management, which owns the Hickory Hill landfill where the county's trash is dumped.

"Because Beaufort County does not have, nor wants to have, a landfill within its borders, we are subject to the pricing of the nearest private provider," county administrator Gary Kubic said. "Therefore, it's my belief this legislation, eliminating the flow of solid waste, will require the imposition of higher taxes on all Beaufort County property owners."

"In areas where there is no competition, like Beaufort County," Rep. Weston Newton, R-Bluffton, has said, "the bill protects the monopolies."

About half of South Carolina's garbage landfills are public, with private companies running the rest.

Lobbying by waste corporations has been intense since the bill surfaced last year. Garbage companies have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on teams of lobbyists since 2011.

The National Solid Waste Management Association and national trash giants, such as Republic Services and Waste Management, support the legislation.

The S.C. Chamber of Commerce, the state's most influential business group, also backs the bill.

Jason Puhlasky, a lobbyist for the solid-waste management industry, said supporters of the legislation only want fair competition. More competition means better prices, he said.

Staff reporter Casey Conley and The (Columbia) State contributed to this report.

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