SB171: Metal recycling amendments rewritten and now wait for Senate debate

Madeleine Lewis
Capital West News

SALT LAKE CITY – A metal recycling bill is now waiting to be heard by the Utah Senate.

In a meeting on Feb. 24, Senate Business and Labor Committee members were concerned about the total exemption metal recyclers would gain if SB171 passed.

In this bill, Sen. Scott K. Jenkins, Plain City-R, aimed to remove the superfluous requirements surrounding the removal of oil filters in engine blocks. He also wanted to block local boards of health from regulating crushers, dismantlers, and scrap metal processors.

The first objective met no resistance from the committee or public speakers. Debate focused on his other objective.

“The second issue that we seek to correct in SB171 prevents the county health departments from imposing excessive and redundant environmental regulations,” Jeremy McRoberts, finance vice president at Western Metals Recycling, said. “The health department repeatedly tried to destroy metal recycling and automatic dismantling by imposing impossible regulations.”

This bill is a response to the frustration metal recyclers feel with the Salt Lake County Council’s regulatory process.

“If I had to go through what I went through in the last three years trying to get a permit for another building and throw on something more from the county health department, I’d do something just short of violent,” Mark Lewon, CEO of Utah Metal Works, said.

The complete exemption of regulation on a county level met significant resistance in committee.

“As I read lines 125 to lines 127, you’re precluding any regulation at all,” committee member Sen. Weiler, Woods Cross-R, said. “I’m not sure that’s really fair to Salt Lake County.”

Members of the metal recycling industry explained that there are already state organizations like EPA and OSHA that regulate these areas, but failed to give specifics. They said more oversight wasn’t necessary.

Rob Jolly, representing both the company LKQ and Utah Auto Dismantling Association discussed how the board of health department is not following the existing procedure.

“The boardmen makes standards and regulations more stringent than corresponding federal law, state statute, and state administrative rules only if the board makes a written finding after public comment and hearing based on evidence in the record,” Jolly said.

According to Jolly, this isn’t happening. As a result, “there is no public process that we can follow to have our problems address,” Jolly said.

“I would contended that the industry received a favorable result as a part of that process,” member of Salt Lake City Council Arlyn Bradshaw, said. “We need to be very clear that as of our county’s health department considered new regulation on waste management the industry’s concerns were taken into account and completely exempted from new regulations.”

Doubts persisted through debate. Some speakers worried that no regulation would lead to unforeseen negative consequences.

“I’m very sympathetic to your cause…but this bill doesn’t prohibit excessive regulation, it prohibits any regulation by the county, and I’m just not sure I’m comfortable with that not knowing what the state is doing,” Weiler said.

Other speakers, like Jenkins, said this was just a step towards fixing the larger problem—the overreach of local health departments.

Cooperation between counties and metal recyclers was suggested by committee members, and agreed to by a county council representative and Jenkins.

“What we have committed to do out of Salt Lake City County, where this is originating out of, is to sit down with and work with the professional organizations interested in scrap metal recycling to see if we can come up with some common understanding for how professional recyclers can be regulated in a fashion they see is appropriate,” Lincoln Shirts, Utah Association of Counties representative, said.

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