HARTFORD – Gov. Ned Lamont criticized state lawmakers for failing to approve his plan to reduce the amount of trash Connecticut sends out of state.
The state currently ships about 860,000 tons of trash to landfills in Pennsylvania and Ohio, contributing to what Lamont’s administration has called a “waste crisis.” On Thursday, the governor signed a watered-down version of the plan, and took the rare step of writing a letter criticizing the bill.
Lamont wrote that the legislation addresses only 5 percent of the trash problem, while raising electric rates to subsidize trash-burning energy plants and shifting the cost of trash disposal to taxpayers.
In the letter, Lamont said the $5 million in subsidies for existing trash-burning plants will raise costs for electric customers, without guaranteeing the subsidies will keep those plants open.
The bill raises the price Eversource and United Illuminating are required to pay trash-burning energy plants from 2.5 cents per kilowatt hour to 3 cents. The electric companies are required to buy 4 percent of their electricity from those plants.
“We’re going to put a fee on electric rates. Really?” Lamont said at the Capitol on Friday. “Everybody is shouting from the rafters about the high cost of electricity, and you want to pay for this by another fee on electric rates. That didn’t make any sense to me at all.”
Lamont and Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Katie Dykes urged lawmakers this year to create an “extended producer responsibility” for packaged goods, boosting food scrap diversion programs and imposing a fee on municipal waste headed for out-of-state landfills.
They said those changes could cut about 44 percent of the waste Connecticut is exporting since the MIRA trash-burning plant in Hartford’s South Meadows shut down in July, taking offline a facility that burned nearly 740,000 tons of trash per year.
But the bill faced strong opposition from trash and recycling haulers and processors who said it would jeopardize the recycling systems that are already working in Connecticut.
The measure had its key provisions stripped in committee, and a $5 per ton fee to municipalities on trash shipped out of state was cut from the state budget during last-minute negotiations earlier this month.
House Speaker Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, said at the time that money was needed to fund a new trash-to-energy plant to replace MIRA, and that lawmakers “should have done a better job” to address the trash problem.
Lamont agreed, saying Friday that the bill lawmakers passed was “disappointing.”
“It moves the ball 5 yards down the playing field, but there’s another 95 yards to go,” he said. “I really want this [Capitol] building to take our environmental initiative seriously. If you’re worried about cost, let me tell you, when it comes to what it’s costing us to ship your trash and waste out of state, it’s costing us a fortune.”
Lamont said packaging is “half of our waste stream” going out of state. He said he’ll also be working closely with neighboring states like Massachusetts and New York to have producers take responsibility for their packaging that’s “clogging our waste stream.”
Lamont said he considered vetoing the bill, but decided to “take half a loaf, then come back and fight for the other half.”