Judge to decide whether recycling law starts Friday
Judge James Boyd is expected to rule Monday on whether he will issue an injunction stalling Aspen’s new recycling initiative, which would otherwise go into effect on Friday.Waste Management of Colorado Inc., one of three private trash haulers operating in the city, has challenged the legality of the new recycling law and has requested the injunction to prevent its implementation until the lawsuit it has filed against the city is resolved.Both sides presented arguments before Boyd on Friday in district court in Glenwood Springs. Witnesses for Waste Management said the law will result in increased costs to the company and that it could lose customers.On the other hand, the city will suffer no harm if the new ordinance does not take effect until the judge has had a chance to evaluate it, argued attorney Kimberly Viergever, representing Waste Management.”Simply what Waste Management is asking you to do is put the enactment of the ordinance on hold until you’ve had the ability to evaluate it under state statute,” she told the judge.Waste Management contends the recycling ordinance amounts to government rate setting, in violation of state statute, by establishing a “rate design.” The ordinance requires haulers to set a base rate for trash pickup, based on volume, and include the pickup of recycling in the base rate.Among the city’s goals is boosting recycling among residents and businesses and prolonging the life of the Pitkin County landfill by diverting more recyclable material from the waste stream.But Chris Hoofnagel, solid waste manager at the landfill, said delaying implementation of the ordinance would not affect the landfill. Called to testify by Waste Management, he was also asked if the ordinance will prolong the life of the landfill.”I believe if it had an effect like that, it would be very small,” he said.The ordinance would not make recycling mandatory. And delaying its effective date wouldn’t prevent Aspenites who already recycle voluntarily from continuing to do so, Viergever argued.”It’s true, the city of Aspen can go on recycling if they want to. The problem is, they don’t,” responded City Attorney John Worcester.On average, Aspenites recycle about one-third less than Coloradans, and Colorado is about 10 times behind the national rate, he noted.Aspen is already advertising the Nov. 25 start date for the recycling ordinance, which would also ban yard waste from garbage. Some trash haulers have already been working with their customers in advance of the new law, testified Janette Murison, the city’s senior environmental health specialist.Delaying the start of the initiative “is going to cause a lot of confusion and, I think, frustration as well, in our community,” she said.Under questioning from Worcester, Waste Management officials conceded they remain able to set the base rate for collecting garbage and recyclables at a price that reflects their costs.But by establishing a rate design, the city is violating laws against rate regulation, Viergever argued.”Although this ordinance doesn’t set the price, it establishes how the rate must be charged and what must be included in that rate,” she said.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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