Legislation opens up waste hauling permits

The American Press

The Legislature at its 2017 regular session overwhelmingly approved a new law that supporters say is designed to open up the process of hauling hazardous waste in the state. Sen. Dan “Blade” Morrish, R-Jennings, sponsored what is now Act 278 and calls it an avenue to free enterprise and fair competition.

The state Public Service Commission regulates those haulers and came up with new rules five years ago but has been slow to put them into effect. The goal of the new law is to speed up the process.

The Advocate in an explanation of what the issue is all about said the PSC filed a lawsuit arguing the Legislature and Gov. John Bel Edwards “not only jumped the gun, but illegally grabbed their constitutional authority in doing so.”

Only 13 truckers are permitted to handle all three types of waste — hazardous waste, industrial byproducts or leftovers from oilfield drilling and production. About 70 companies are allowed to handle only one of the three.

Tough hauling rules had to be put in place because unscrupulous haulers once dumped toxic waste in swamps and bayous. However, a former state environmental inspector who now works for an environmental service company seeking a permit said things have changed.

Bubba NaQuin of Sulphur said companies that create the waste are wary of lawsuits and are careful about how it is handled. He added the state Department of Environmental Quality has also tightened its regulations and tracks the waste from cradle to grave.

Legislators obviously agree. The House voted 79-20 for the new law, and it was approved 22-4 in the Senate. All legislators representing the six parishes in this corner of the state voted for the bill.

Damon Baldone, R-Houma, who was appointed to the PSC by Edwards to replace commissioner Scott Angelle, spoke for supporters of the new law.

“I’m the new eyes of this commission,” Baldone said. “They realize there are some issues and we’re on the path to resolving those issues. The new rules will set out a way for the average guy to get a license and that’s the bottom line.”

Competition is certainly a worthwhile goal, but the PSC commissioners need to ensure those who get the new permits are held strictly accountable for their actions.

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