On March 30, Governor Patton issued Executive Order 2001-384, creating a "Certified Clean Counties Program."
A county that participates in the program and receives a certification from the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Cabinet (NREPC) that it is a "clean county" will receive priority points when applying for Land and Water Conservation Fund money, National recreation Trails and Community Rivers and Streams program money, and priority for funds from the Division of Conservation State cost share for farmland dumps and Waste Tire Fund for tires dumps.
Counties eligible to participate in the program are those that have a mandatory door-to-door garbage collection ordinance that applies to both residences and businesses and which requires participation and payment by all (except those who are low-income, aged or disabled) or paid by local taxes. Counties also have to employ a solid waste coordinator with enforcement powers, maintain compliance with the county solid waste plan, agree to clean up and keep clean all open solid waste dumps in the county, to use all tools available under law to collect delinquent disposal fees, including placing delinquencies on property tax bills, and establishing a local county "certified clean county committee" to increase awareness of the need to not create more dumps.
In addition to priority in certain grants, a participating county will be reimbursed up to 75% of direct costs for cleaning up the dumps, and the state will assign staff to monitor and assist in dump cleanup efforts and to help estimate the cost of cleanups. Counties must be recertified each year.
Last, the county gets a "certified clean county" sign on each state road at the county border.
The Governor has stated that he remains committed to a comprehensive program that includes recycling and education, and that this is just one step towards addressing the problem.
The Council has previously suggested that what we need to clean up Kentucky is a comprehensive, multi-faceted approach to address the remaining solid waste issues of concern in a comprehensive manner.
The proposal focuses on two aspects of the solid waste issue that of open dumps and mandatory collection. The Governor's proposal links new county funding for dump cleanup (at of direct costs) to the adoption or an ordinance imposing door-to-door collection and requiring its' use.
While the Administration's continued interest in these issues is laudable, the proposal needs modification in order to be effective. The problems include these:
* The Executive Order allocates no funds to assist counties wishing to impose mandatory collection to capitalize the start-up costs of such a program. In October, 2001, NREPC estimated that $12 million would be needed on a no-interest loan basis for those counties wishing to contract for mandatory collection, to cover the uncollectable bills until the property tax mechanism could be established and utilized.
With no funding to help counties that wish to transition, it is unlikely that the offer of 75% reimbursement on open dump clean-ups will attract many counties that do not already have mandatory collection to establish such a program.
* The executive order focuses local efforts on dump cleanup, but no new money or requirement is imposed to improve anti-litter enforcement or local public education.
Continued focusing of efforts and resources on cleaning up dumps funds the least efficient approach, since many of these dumps continue to be used after having been cleaned. Seeding local education programs, such as the Southern Appalachian Recycling programs, seed funding an anti-litter media campaign such as was suggested in the Kentucky Clean program, and requiring local county officials to ramp up enforcement of litter laws, must all accompany new funds for dump clean up.
* Nothing is mentioned in the order about the lingering legacy of old landfills owned and operated by city or county officials yet not yet properly closed. This legacy of potentially hundreds of sites present a far greater public health and environmental threat than most open roadside dumps, yet the cabinet has failed to aggressively pursue the submittal and implementation of closure and groundwater assessment plans for many of these facilities by their county or city owners.
* Many businesses have their own solid waste disposal contracts and methods, yet the executive order appears to require counties to include all businesses in a door-to-door collection program in order to be eligible.
* It is unclear when a county is eligible for the 75% co-pay for dump cleanup and the award and grant preferences. The executive order indicates that the 75% reimbursement is available to counties that "meet" the eligibility requirements, but it is unclear whether that means the county is working towards being "dump-free" or whether the money is available only after the county is "certified" as clean.
In either event, it will be difficult for some counties to capitalize the cost of dump cleanup, since the state's support is in the form of "reimbursement" after the fact rather than payment of costs up-front.
* It is unclear what level of performance will be required of counties in order to be eligible. The Governor's plan (and legislation during the 2001 session) is premised on the assumption that imposing mandatory door-to-door collection and requiring fees to be paid by all (or almost all) will stop illegal dumping. While there is some logic in the suggestion that if people are paying, they will use the service rather than illegally dump, there is no direct correlation between the presence of mandatory collection and lower incidences of illegal dumps, as many counties with mandatory collection have significant dumping problems, and some counties without door-to-door pickup countywide have lower incidences of illegal dumps than others with mandatory collection. Participation rates in counties with mandatory collection range from 35% to 100%, and it is unclear what level of participation and payment in fact must be shown to be "eligible" for the certification and monies.
It is also unclear why no access to funds or to the program is provided for communities with door-to-door in urban areas and other programs in rural areas, such as manned convenience centers, if those counties can show achievement of numbers comparable to curbside counties.
None of these problems with this new program are insurmountable, but each needs clarification if the new program is going to do anything more than to widen the gulf between those counties with effective solid waste management programs and those without. Additionally, in order to effect change in the counties without curbside collection, funding should be made available to capitalize the cost of imposing mandatory collection at the local level.
The Council continues to believe that an effective program for cleaning up Kentucky must address at least the following:
* old leaking landfills owned by counties and cities that must beclosed and monitored to protect private well and publicgroundwater supplies;
* the persistent blight of roadside bottle, can and fast-food packaging litter;
* the lack of a funded environmental education curriculumfor grades K-12;
* the lack of robust funding for community-based localeducation and anti-litter initiatives;
* the lack of even enforcement of anti-littering and anti-dumpinglaws across the state;
* the uneven performance of some counties and communities in achieving mandated recycling, dump abatement, and safe disposal goals.