With the James River as a backdrop, Virginia Gov. Mark Warner announced a plan to impose a fee on all trash dumped at Virginia landfills.
Warner chose Richmond’s James River Park as the setting for his announcement that money generated by the new fee of $5 a ton on landfill waste will go to a variety of state environmental programs. A portion will also be set aside for grants to local governments for similar purposes.
Warner suggested that the new fee, known as a “tipping fee,” is a way of compensating for Virginia’s role as a major importer of other states’ garbage. He noted that Virginia is the “the No. 2 importer of out-of-state trash” in the United States and that a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision precludes the state from simply outlawing the practice.
Warner noted that the Supreme Court ruling requires that “all trash is treated fairly and equally,” so Virginia residents, companies and localities dumping trash in landfills will also have to pay the fee. He said his plan to return money from the fees to localities would ensure that “the vast majority of local governments will see a net increase in funds.”
Moreover, he said, “For too long, Virginia has neglected to provide adequate resources to protect our precious natural resources.” Funds raised by the new fee will help redress that neglect, he said.
Proceeds of the tipping fee — expected to amount to $76 million a year — will be administered by a new program, the Commonwealth Conservation Fund.
Warner’s proposal would give 40 percent of the money to two state programs for open-space preservation, the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation and the Virginia Outdoors Foundation. Thirty-five percent would fund grants to local governments for natural resources uses, while 19 percent would go to the state’s Water Quality Improvement Fund. The Virginia Brownfields Restoration and Economic Redevelopment Assistance Fund, a program to revitalize blighted urban areas, would receive 5 percent.
Local governments would likely pay about 25 percent of the cost of the program, Warner said. However, he said, they would get money back under the brownfields, open space and clean water programs in addition to the 35 percent due them through the grants fund.
Warner emphasized that he believes his proposal will enjoy “broad bipartisan support” in the General Assembly. In particular, he noted that House of Delegates Speaker S. Vance Wilkins has been a long-term supporter of land-conservation efforts. Other leaders of both houses of the General Assembly have already endorsed the plan, he said.