State and resource recovery authority officials were hesitant Monday to endorse Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s proposal to create a Solid Waste Commission to regulate the trash hauling industry. Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said the state should look at giving the Department of Environmental Protection, which already licenses solid waste facilities and hazardous waste haulers the power to do things like background checks on haulers and create higher licensing standards. Blumenthal said significant economies of scale and efficiency can be achieved by DEP licensing of solid waste haulers. “Background checks may be conducted in the same manner as the agency already does for other licenses,” Blumenthal opined.

In addition Blumenthal proposed a law that requires the hauler to post a $10,000 surety bond per vehicle to ensure proper disposal of solid waste and any person who operates a solid waste hauling business without a license may be assessed a criminal fine up to $25,000 for the first violation and a prison term up to two years. For any subsequent violations Blumenthal suggested a fine of up to $50,000 and a prison term up to five years. Connecticut Resource Recovery Authority Chairman Michael Pace didn’t disagree. “I like the attorney general’s comments. Let’s not set up another bureaucracy,” he said. Pace said the trash industry needs to be looked at holistically. Pace told Rell’s working group Monday that five of the six waste processing facilities will be turned over to private companies in a few years. At that point the private companies that run them will receive trash from whom ever, New York, New Jersey, etc.  is willing to pay top dollar, he added. Jonathan Bilmes, executive director of the Bristol Resource Recovery Authority, said right now cities and towns are the ones that hire trash haulers by approving contracts for day-to-day trash pick-up service. When asked if the municipalities do background checks on the haulers, he said, “I don’t know. I doubt it.” He said this is why the state needs to complete its 10-year solid waste disposal plan. At the moment it’s in draft form and the one currently in effect is from the early 1990s. Bilmes said over the past few years the 16 municipalities his authority represents had seen fewer and fewer haulers bid on local contracts. He said at the time they didn’t know if it was consolidation in the industry or the allegations of mob involvement that lead to recent federal indictments of trash haulers. Department of Public Safety Commissioner Leonard Boyle, who headed the working group, called the testimony at the Monday’s hearing “informative and helpful.“Rell was prompted to form a Solid Waste Commission following the federal indictment of trash haulers in the southwestern portion of the state. According to media reports,  trash haulers with ties to the mafia were indicated for driving up prices in the solid waste market and paying the mob to help keep out the competition. “I am pleased that support for licensing is beginning to grow,” Rell, said in a press release Monday. The working group will make its recommendations by July 21.