Michigan governor's recycling plans fall short as term expires
UPDATE: Dec. 17, 2018: A bill backed by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder proposing an increase in landfill tip fees did not pass the state legislature, according to the Associated Press. The most recent version of the proposal would have raised the state fee from $0.36 per ton to $3.99, generating an estimated $69 million in annual funding for brownfield remediation, recycling grants and other items. Legislators from both parties opposed the measure, with some suggesting that funding could be raised through other avenues.
- Michigan governor Rick Snyder is attempting to pass his Renew Michigan legislation, which deals with solid waste management and recycling, before his term expires at the end of the year, reports WOOD-TV.
- The proposal, which serves as a replacement for the Clean Michigan Initiative Bond, seeks to raise the current state-mandated landfill tip fee from $0.36 per ton to $4.75 per ton. According to the governor's office, the price hike would generate $79 million annually to fund brownfield site clean-up, waste management initiatives and recycling efforts.
- However, the governor's shrinking time in office and short legislative window may pose a critical challenge to the bill. Snyder has maintained that compromise with legislators isn't off the table: "As a practical matter, I don't like to use the term horse trading, but again, we'll be looking for votes."
According to the governor, Michigan's $0.36 per ton tip fee — the lowest in the Great Lakes basin — has significantly impacted its environment: 17 million tons of waste are disposed of annually in the state, with 25.5% coming from neighboring states and Canada. Recent analysis by the Environmental Research & Education Foundation found that Midwest tip fees, already below the the national average, have decreased in the past year.
Snyder's prioritization of Renew Michigan is prefaced by his ongoing focus on recycling participation. Once a leader in recycling, Michigan currently trails other states with its 15% recycling rate — and despite his administration's emphasis on recycling awareness and education, Snyder has called his attempt to double the state's numbers "one of the most disappointing initiatives" of his time in office.
The proposed price hike represents the governor's last-ditch effort to bolster Michigan's environmental infrastructure. As China's scrap import restrictions continue to send shockwaves through the industry, Michigan's counties and municipalities have struggled to keep up with cost increases and diminished access to processing infrastructure. Snyder's plan may help mitigate the strain: while policies vary, other states have established a precedent for higher tip fee surcharges to fund recycling programs and infrastructure investments.
While Renew Michigan's chances may be hampered by the Snyder's lame duck status, local support — including from Ann Arbor officials, who have backed the fee increase — could give the proposal a fighting chance in the state legislature next month.
Follow Rina Li on Twitter