Date: February 28, 2007
Source: Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Lautenberg, Menendez, Pallone Introduce Measure to Protect New Jersey Residents from Unregulated Solid Waste Stations Along Rail Lines in the State
Today, United States Senators Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ), Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and U.S. Representative Frank Pallone (D-NJ) reintroduced legislation to allow New Jersey to regulate these facilities for environmental, health, and safety reasons.
The bill would close a loophole in federal law that has allowed at least one company to build up a number of large piles of garbage along a 2 mile section of rail line in North Bergen. Last year, a company in Red Bank also threatened to use this loophole to build an unregulated waste transfer station near a residential community. The trash, largely made of construction debris that can include elevated levels of arsenic and mercury, is kept at sites along the rail line before it is shipped to landfills out of state. Some garbage piles are as tall as two stories and pose a serious health and environmental risk to those who live near the sites.
The state has tried repeatedly to impose regulations on the trash piles in an effort to protect those New Jerseyans who live and work near them, but earlier this month a federal judge ruled against the state, effectively allowing the company to continue this dangerous practice. A federal agency, the Surface Transportation Board (STB) has authority to let states like New Jersey regulate these facilities, but has thus far chosen not to do so.
Lautenberg's legislation will give the state clear authority to regulate these facilities.
"The people's health and New Jersey's environment is at risk due to a loophole in federal law that allows companies to effectively change rail facilities into landfills," said Lautenberg. "No more - we will push our legislation through Congress so that New Jersey's strong regulations can be enforced."
"It is unconscionable that anyone should be forced to live and work near garbage piles that are not simply unpleasant eye-sores, but that contain materials that pose health and environmental dangers," Menendez said. "These companies are brazenly flouting federal, state, and local environmental protections and threatening the safety of our families. Our legislation will let the people of New Jersey shut these sites down and keep our rivers clean, our air clear, and our families healthy."
"Railroad companies should not be allowed to exploit a supposed loophole in federal law to set up unregulated waste transfer facilities," Pallone said. "Our legislation ensures that new waste facilities sited near rail lines comply with the same regulations as every other trash facility. The federal government needs the ability to oversee operations at more than nine facilities here in New Jersey in order to protect public health and the environment."
Lautenberg serves as Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee's subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety and Security. The subcommittee has jurisdiction over railroad issues and oversees the confirmation of STB Board members.
Contact: Alex Formuzis (202) 224-7340.