By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Tuesday, the Alabama House of Representatives voted to decrease the tax levied on hazardous waste that is disposed of in Alabama. House Bill 181 would cut the fee to just $11 a ton (from over $20). The bill’s sponsor, state Representative A. J. McCampbell (D) from Greene County said that lowering the tax would lead to create to more businesses choosing to use Alabama for their toxic waste disposal needs creating over 200 new jobs in the hazardous waste disposal business in Emelle, AL.
Representative McCampbell said that the bill was an economic development bill for west Alabama. McCampbell said that the toxic waste disposal facility employed over 500 people until the Alabama State Legislature hiked the fee in 1993. Today that facility employs only 56 workers.
Rep. Patricia Todd (D) from Birmingham said, “I am opposed to having more hazardous waste Rep. McCampbell said, “For 38 years you have had no negative environmental impact at all.” McCampbell said that the site has been and will continue to be closely monitored by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM).
Rep. Todd said that she did not trust ADEM.
Rep. McCampbell said that the Selma chalk deposits in Sumter County are 600 feet deep and that they only dig 185 feet to deposit the hazardous waste. McCampbell said that Alabama only has one hazardous waste facility. At one time Emelle was the only facility in the country but after the legislature raised the fees 11 other states have gotten into the hazardous waste businesses costing Alabama jobs. McCampbell said that there is no medical hazardous waste is in Emelle. That has to be incinerated.
Todd asked, “Will the hazardous waste come in by rail or by truck?”
McCampbell replied, “Both.”
Rep. Barry Moore (R) from Enterprise said that, “We are trying to create jobs.” Moore said that Waste Management has been there a long time and they do a good job and use Emelle as a training facility. “We are decreasing taxes to increase revenue and create jobs.”
Rep. Joe Hubbard (D) from Montgomery said, “You have a natural resource in Sumter County, resources that other states do not have.” “People raised fees in 90s so they laid off people. We can actually take the fee off and the industry is going to grow.”
Rep. McCampbell said that the annual payroll at Emelle is $21 million. Making this change payroll will increase the payroll to $94 million. McCampbell said that the facility has only used 600 of the site’s 2700 acres and could purchase more property if there was a need to expand.
Rep. Hubbard said, “I am very proud of you for doing this economic impact study.” “This is a fiscally sound deal. I look forward to voting for this.”
Rep. Kerry Rich (R) from Marshall Co said, “I am going to vote for this bill and I think this is a very good bill.” Rich said that the soil guarantees that there will never be a leak and the EPA also says this is absolutely safe there has never been a case of any leakage in Emelle. Rich compared Emelle to fracking which has led to an economic boom in parts of this country. “There has never been a single case where it has gotten into the water table. I can’t understand people opposing fracking and developing our energy resources.” Rich said that our taxes were too high at Emelle which has led to business going to our competition in other states.
McCampbell said that there is a lining process involving real heavy plastics that protects the site from leakage in addition to the natural chalk formation. McCampbell said that ADEM will get $2 for every ton of material that is stored at Emelle.
Rep. Oliver Robinson (D) from Birmingham said, “I do support this legislation wholeheartedly. It will create jobs and improve the quality of life for people who live down there.”
Rep. Moore (D) from Birmingham said, “I want to make the company to understand that if anything gets out of control it is going to be on their heads.” Moore was concerned that that hazardous waste would be moving through Birmingham. “Birmingham has all of the traffic coming together right there in North Birmingham where I live. I am giving them (the company) sufficient warning that if we have problems it will not be nice.”
H.B. 181 passed with overwhelming support from both parties: 94 to 8
The bill is being sponsored by Senator Bobby Singleton (D) in the Alabama Senate.