***Note: this bill has been substituted, this analysis may no longer be valid***
Senator Todd Weiler (Republican – Woods Cross) has had medical waste company Stericycle in his sights since last September, when the company drew attention and outrage from North Salt Lake residents over the excessive air pollution emissions it belches out.
The upcoming Foxboro community, which has grown up (and continues to grow) around the long-standing Stericycle plant, is out for blood. Their calls have been so loud and persistent, they’ve succeeded in opening negotiations to relocate Stericycle, and Senator Weiler has vowed to prevent similar plants from being built in residential zones.
SB 196 – Medical Waste Incineration Prohibition is the result of that promise.
The bill would prevent any new medical waste incineration plants in the state of Utah, and only allow current incineration plants to remain if they’re located at least two miles from any residential zones. If the bill were to become reality, the current Stericycle plant in North Salt Lake would have to shut down, but a second plant in Tooele County could remain in operation.
A similar proposal from Senator Luz Robles (Democrat – Salt Lake City), who’s district borders Weiler’s, proposed similar legislation this session only to watch it soundly defeated. Her proposal, which was far broader than Weiler’s and called for a five mile radius between incinerators and residences, was seen as too unrealistic by the Senate Environmental Committee. The committee was also concerned that, under Robles’ proposal, companies would be forced to buy 75 square miles of land around a plant to prevent encroachment by residential communities.
Among conservatives on the committee, who tend to favor leniency and deregulation for business, there was also the issue of the government actively removing a private industry. Many openly wondered during Robles’ presentation if it was right to “punish” a company that had a residential area grow up around them, even though that new population was being effected by the heavy pollution the plants produce. Others have wondered if Stericycle is simply a bad apple, and that the issue is one of enforcing air pollution regulations and standards, and called an outright ban on the plants “excessive.”
Weiler’s bill does not directly address these issues, however the back-end work that he has done in regards to negotiating a move by Stericycle to the West Desert may give committee members a little more comfort in passing Weiler’s bill out of committee.
That being said, the fate of the bill is still in doubt. Regulatory restrictions, let alone outright bans, often leave bitter tastes in legislators mouths. Robles’ bill was rejected outright, but Weiler may see more success.
To contact Senator Weiler, click here or call 801-559-9823.
Impact on Average Utahn:
High Impact 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1 . 0 No Impact
Need for Legislation:
Necessary 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1 . 0 Unnecessary
Sound Legislation 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1 . 0 Clunker