Waste Management:

Observations on the Congressionally Approved New Hampshire-Vermont Solid Waste Compact

GAO-03-276R: Published: Dec 13, 2002. Publicly Released: Dec 20, 2002.

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John B. Stephenson
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This report provides information on (1) the structure and operations of the New Hampshire-Vermont Solid Waste Project; (2) how the project's structure and operations compare to those of other interstate waste management projects; and (3) issues that need to be addressed in the future, as the expiration of the incineration contract approaches and the districts consider their options. In addressing the second question, we were unable to identify any other congressionally approved interstate solid waste compacts. However, we identified 10 interstate compacts for the management of low-level radioactive waste and one solid waste agreement that was not congressionally approved and used them as a basis for comparison.

To implement the New Hampshire-Vermont Solid Waste Compact, the two member districts adopted a cooperative agreement that established a two-tiered management structure: a Joint Meeting with representatives from each community in the two districts and a smaller Executive Committee composed of representatives from the Joint Meeting. The Joint Meeting authorizes actions needed to carry out the purposes of the cooperative agreement, such as the acquisition or disposition of property, and adopts the annual budget under which the project operates. The Executive Committee implements the policies and actions authorized by the Joint Meeting, proposes an annual budget, oversees the project's day-to-day operations, and approves all project contracts. Executive Committee members develop a budget sufficient to cover the estimated costs of waste incineration and ash disposal; real estate taxes; bond repayments; and running the project office. Once the budget has been approved, the communities in the member districts are responsible for generating sufficient revenues to pay for their share of the budget, an allocation determined by the waste management districts and based on the percentage of the total waste tonnage that each community generates. The communities are also responsible for organizing a collection site for their waste and its transport to the incinerator. The structure and operations of the New Hampshire-Vermont Solid Waste Project differ from those of other interstate waste management projects in several ways. For example, the two-tiered structure used in the New Hampshire-Vermont project differs from that of the other projects, each of which has a single governing body. From an operational standpoint, major differences between the New Hampshire-Vermont project and the others include the degree of authority granted to the projects' governing bodies and how clearly the implementing agreements define roles and responsibilities. The New Hampshire-Vermont compact and the other waste management agreements are similar in several respects, however, including the extent to which they address how accounts and records will be maintained, audit services will be engaged, and the agreements will be modified. By the time the contract for incineration services expires in July 2007, project officials must address a variety of issues in three broad categories: alternative waste disposal options, the long-term liability of communities in the member districts, and the disposition of project-related land. Much depends on whether the districts decide to dissolve their cooperative agreement and, as a result, are faced with making new arrangements for the disposal of their solid waste.

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