Legislation to expand local recycling efforts and push Guam toward a “zero waste” footprint moved closer to passing during Monday’s session of the legislature.
And a bill that could give the CHamoru Land Trust Commission millions of dollars by increasing fees collected on undersea telecommunications cables that cross Guam will be headed to Governor Lou Leon Guerrero’s office for signing.
Sen. Sabina Perez’s Bill 284, the Zero Waste Law, would increase the Guam Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to encourage recycling efforts and allow the agency to carry over unspent money in the Revolving Recycling Fund from year to year.
The fund averages more than $2 million a year in collections, according to Perez. The Guam EPA administrator would gain the power to increase recycling fees collected by the Department of Revenue and Taxes on annual vehicle registrations by up to 25 percent.
The Zero Waste Act sets the goal of “diverting waste streams” to achieve a 50% reduction in waste by 2035 and a 75% reduction by 2045. Guam’s EPA would be allowed to spend up to to $200,000 for a new zero-waste master plan.
One of the key parts of the bill is the creation of a recycling industry incentive program that would allow the Guam EPA to subsidize recycling companies that ship recyclables off the island. Some goods, such as plastics, have become more difficult to offload to recycling centers due to fluctuating market rates.
“We can no longer rely on these destinations and the vagaries of these markets. We have to be able to control … our waste,” Perez said.
Refunds would be based on fair market value and transportation costs if the bill becomes law.
Senator Telo Taitague amended the measure to require documentation of recyclable goods shipped off the island.
In addition to subsidizing recycling, the measure also allows Guam EPA to pay the Guam Solid Waste Authority up to $400,000 annually for curbside recycling and disposal of household hazardous waste, such as refrigerators. . Free services have always been provided at a loss to Solid Waste.
Guam’s council of mayors, now responsible for disposing of abandoned vehicles and other trash in villages, would also get a boost. The bill authorizes the Department of Public Works to contract out the work to a third-party recycling company.
Guam EPA would also have the authority to create a $400,000 zero waste grant program to provide grants to recycling companies that aim to reduce waste in the community.
Senator Joanne Brown was skeptical of granting additional grant approval to Guam EPA, which she says is failing to enforce local environmental regulations.
“We can see environmental degradation that the agency is not effectively enforcing.”
Perez said the US EPA has a similar grant program in place, which the local regulatory agency could use as a roadmap to establish a program for Guam.
Bill 283 is advanced without objection.
Lawmakers voted early Monday morning to pass President Therese Terlaje’s Bill 277, which standardizes lease agreements on underwater lands held by the CHamoru Land Trust Commission.
The submerged land is leased by the Land Trust to telecommunications companies looking to run international fiber optic cables through Guam, although some pay as little as $5,000 a year. The measure would require companies to pay the Land Trust $100,000 per cable per year. The rate would gradually increase.
With a lease held by Indian company Tata Communications expiring on Friday, Terlaje said she hopes the governor signs the measure quickly so the Land Trust gets an immediate benefit.
A companion measure, Bill 278, which would set aside money collected in fees for the land trust’s survey and infrastructure fund, also moved forward without objection.
Terlaje said that according to the latest fundraising reports, the investigation and infrastructure fund has only raised $17,000 so far this year.
The bill would also increase the fund to be used to install telecommunications infrastructure. The use of funds was further expanded by Taitague, who amended the bill to include storm drainage and sidewalks.