Trash hauler seeks state aid for landfill improvements in Western Pennsylvania
Waste Management Inc. is seeking $100 million in tax-exempt, low-interest bonds through a state agency to finance improvements this year at 16 Pennsylvania landfills and recycling centers, including six local sites.
The Houston-based company is asking to borrow money through the Pennsylvania Economic Development Financing Authority, which would issue bonds that Waste Management would repay, authority spokesman Edward Jordan said. The company would not receive a direct grant of taxpayer money. A public hearing on the bond application will take place on Wednesday in Harrisburg.
The planned work is worrisome to some residents who live near the Monroeville Landfill, one of the local sites.
The company's blasting last year during an expansion of the landfill brought complaints about noise and tremors, said John Bova, vice president of Pitcairn Council.
“The hill just keeps looming larger and larger. And knowing what we know about big business, there's no reason to believe that it's not going to do anything except get bigger and bigger,” Bova said.
Waste Management intends to construct and cap cells, or sections of landfills, at sites that include Monroeville, South Hills Landfill in South Park, Valley Landfill in Penn Township, Northwest Sanitary Landfill in Butler County, Evergreen Landfill in Indiana County and Arden Landfill in Chartiers, company spokeswoman Erika Deyarmin said.
When a section is filled to its permitted capacity, it is capped and planted with native vegetation, she said. Leachate, a liquid composed of rainwater and decomposing waste that filtered through the landfill, is collected and treated for disposal.
“The cap stabilizes and protects the structure, prevents erosion, keeps precipitation out of the landfill, and provides a stable, long-term cover,” Deyarmin wrote in an email.
Waste Management, which reported an $817 million profit on $13.65 billion in revenue for 2012, is eligible for tax-exempt bonds because the IRS provides an interest exemption for landfills, said Lisa A. Chiesa, a partner at Downtown-based Clark Hill Thorp Reed who specializes in municipal finance law. She was not involved in Waste Management's application.
The state provides a tax exemption if an industrial development authority applies for the financing, she said, as the Bucks County authority did for Waste Management.
Though taxpayers would not be responsible for paying back Waste Management's bond debt, the financing is similar to a government subsidy, said Sara Davis Buss, a public finance attorney with Downtown law firm Campbell & Levine LLC, who is not involved in the application.
The government allows subsidies for such things as landfills, airports and colleges, Buss said, with the intent “to encourage people to invest in these projects because we need them.”
Tory N. Parrish is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-5662 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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