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Will hazardous-waste bill favor one firm, hurt another?

A bill designed to streamline the permitting process for one Tooele County hazardous waste facility could end up costing its competitor in two ways.

SB144, which gives up-front legislative approval for Laidlaw Environmental Services to take low-level radioactive waste, was sent to the full Senate on a 4-2 vote Wednesday by the Senate Business, Labor and Economic Development Committee. The measure would help put Laidlaw into the same business as Envirocare of Utah, and is promoted as a way to break Envirocare's monopoly on the market.But the bill now carries an amendment, offered by Sen. Howard Nielson, R-Provo, that triples the fee charged by the state for incoming radioactive waste from $2.50 per ton to $7.50.

The increase would take effect July 1 and immediately impact Envirocare, which has the nation's largest repository for low-level radioactive waste about 10 miles away from the Laidlaw facility in Tooele County.

The higher fees would eventually apply to Laidlaw, if it can obtain state Department of Environmental Quality and Tooele County permission to begin accepting low-level radioactive waste in addition to the hazardous waste it now accepts.

Nielson last year wanted to raise the fee to $50 per ton, an amount that was drastically reduced in committee before the bill died on the Senate floor.

The committee approved SB144 despite an impassioned plea from Sen. George Mantes, D-Tooele, to prevent more radioactive waste from coming into his "back yard."

"The people of Tooele County do not support this bill," he told the committee. . . . This is a bad bill. It is bad public policy to hand-tailor statutes for one isolated company in one isolated instance."