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NEWS: NAFTA emerges in debate over Canada’s garbage exports

The Port Huron Times Herald reports, “(Democratic US) Senator Debbie Stabenow (of Michigan) has introduced legislation to increase the cost of importing Canadian trash across the border, a move she hopes will bring an end to the garbage business. ‘Canadian trash poses serious health, safety, and security threats to Michigan families and communities’, Stabenow said in a statement. The ‘Stop Canadian Trash Act’, proposes charging a $500 fee for every truck hauling garbage to the United States to cover the cost of inspection by Homeland Security.”

The announcement was made near the Brent Run landfill in Genesee County, Michigan (near Flint) about 122 kilometres west of Sarnia, Ontario on the shores of Lake Huron. “More than 46 million cubic yards of trash were deposited in Michigan landfills in 2010, with nearly 8.8 million cubic yards from Canada, according to a report from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.”

BusinessWeek adds, “Michigan residents complain that trucks carrying Canadian garbage cause environmental and health problems, harm roads and create security risks because of the difficulty of screening trash for contraband.”

“But members of the waste-hauling industry said doing that would violate the North American Free Trade Agreement. ‘I think that this is obviously politically related…’, said Chaz Miller, state programs director for the National Solid Wastes Management Association. Miller said the act would violate NAFTA and not ‘send a very good message to your trading partners or your treaty partners.’ …Tom Horton, vice president of Waste Management Midwest public affairs, said in an e-mail the proposed act could hinder the nation’s ability to ship to Canada. ‘Homeland Security does not view trash as a threat to our nation’s borders,’ he said. ‘An unwarranted inspection fee would violate the North American Free Trade Agreement and threaten our nation’s ability to ship hazardous waste and electronic waste to Canada, which it does regularly.'”

“Stabenow’s office said that isn’t the case. ‘NAFTA prohibits certain tariffs and taxes, but it allows user fees for things like security inspections. In fact, there’s already a $5 user fee on trash trucks,’ said Cullen Schwarz, a Stabenow spokesman.”