A state that has a scrap tire management law doesn't necessarily have an effective program to handle waste tires, according to speakers at the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries' 2007 Tire Recycling Business Summit.
If the governor and state legislature leave the scrap tire fund to finance scrap tire abatement and recycling projects, the law will work as intended, the speakers said.
Too often, however, cash-strapped state governments view the fund as a cash cow ripe for milking, and the law itself as a political football to be kicked around at will.
The latter scenario is precisely what happened in Oklahoma, according to Max Daughtrey, vice president-operations at Four D Corp. in Duncan, Okla. He was a speaker at the event in Rosemont, Ill.
Oklahoma was one of the first states to enact scrap tire legislation, in 1989, Daughtrey said. The state's tire recycling plan was fee-based, and to this day the fee is $1 on each new passenger tire and $3.50 on each new truck tire sold within its borders.
``The original bill put the money in a lock box for the sole use of scrap tire abatement,'' he said.
The Oklahoma legislature has considered scrap tire legislation every year since 1989, though each new bill hasn't always passed, Daughtrey said. Despite the constant tinkering, however, the law worked fine until 1998, when Frank Keating, Oklahoma's Republican governor at the time, wanted to snatch the $6 million in the scrap tire fund to balance the state budget.
In 1999, Keating took $4.6 million out of the scrap tire fund. The precedent of using the fund for general purposes has lingered to this day, Daughtrey said, with the upshot that it hasn't been entirely solvent since.
``Until 1999, the fund never defaulted on any bill,'' he said. ``Now, it can pay only about 80 to 95 percent of the bills sent to it. If there is not enough money in the fund to pay the bills, we are prorated as to how much money we're going to get.''
Most-favored permit holders
Soon after Keating raided the scrap tire fund, Oklahoma's cement manufacturers decided scrap tires would be excellent fuel for their kilns, Daughtrey said. That led to passage of a law that gave cement kiln operators first dibs on the state's scrap tires, and that provision has remained unchanged in successive bills, he said.
``It took me 2½ years to get a permit to recycle tires,'' he said. ``A cement kiln operator can get a permit with one call to the state.
Four D and every other tire recycler in Oklahoma has to fight the same battle every year, as the legislature puts forward another scrap tire management bill, according to Daughtrey.
``When I got into the tire recycling business 15 years ago, I didn't really think about politics,'' he said. ``Now I have my own lobbyist in Oklahoma City. Of course, the cement kilns have several lobbyists.''
The state's latest scrap tire bill promises at least some change, though how much has yet to be seen, according to Daughtrey.
The latest bill transfers responsibility for collecting money for the scrap tire fund to the Department of Environmental Quality.
Before, the Oklahoma Tax Commission was responsible for collection of the fees from tire dealers, and-according to Daughtrey-the commission ran things on the honor system.
``The Tax Commission couldn't tell you which tire dealer sent fees, or how much,'' he said. ``The fund was losing $2 million to $3 million a year because of lack of enforcement.'' The DEO has founded a Scrap Tire Management Task Force and started on-site audits of tire dealers to try to enforce the law, he said, but it will be several years before fee collection is as efficient as it should be.
And, of course, the law could change completely next year, he said.
``There's an official interpretation document of the new law, but I'm not sure a semi-truck could bring it all in here,'' Daughtrey said. ``The politics involved with scrap tires is now overwhelming. The only way to make the scrap tire fund self-sufficient is to increase the fees, but the politicians don't want that. I guess we'll keep changing the law every year until we get it right.''
Virginia's success and challenge
Like Oklahoma, Virginia passed its original scrap tire management bill in 1989, according to Allan Lassiter, head of the waste tire section within the Office of Environmental Enhancement at the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. From then on, however, Virginia's experience with scrap tire management was very different from Oklahoma's. For example, Virginia has only had two pieces of scrap tire legislation in 15 years.
``Thank God I don't work for the state of Oklahoma,'' Lassiter said following Daughtrey's speech.
For 18 years, the scrap tire fee in Virginia has been 50 cents on each new tire sold in the state, according to Lassiter. ``The fee was proposed at $1, but the Republicans controlled the legislature at the time,'' he said. With this 50-cent fee, Virginia has managed to clean up 21 million tires in the ensuing years.
Nevertheless, the state still has about 2.5 million scrap tires in 160 piles, according to Lassiter. ``These are the dregs, the worst of the worst,'' he said.
Virginia's scrap tire program got going in 1994 after several false starts, including a state system operated by the Virginia Department of Corrections. ``Thank the Lord we didn't do that,'' Lassiter said.
Instead, the state put out competitive bids to secure scrap tire processors and put scrap tire collection trailers at every landfill. ``We cleaned up tire piles on demonstrations to see who could do what,'' he said.
Virginia's program, however, does one thing ISRI recommends against: it offers an ``end-use reimbursement'' plan to recyclers.
``If you did something productive with a tire, we paid you $22 to $50 per ton,'' Lassiter said. Oregon had a similar program, he said, but that state refused to reimburse tire shredders, with the result that the program failed. In Virginia, however, it works, he said. But the state has never given a single grant to a tire recycler. ``We just write a check at the end of the process,'' he said.
If you're a tire recycler and you want to have an influence on scrap tire management in your state, you should work with the managers of your state's program, Lassiter said.
``If you don't know them, go meet them,'' he said. ``We're not in politics-we're at the bureaucratic level. Get involved with regulatory proposals, not just legislative ones.''
The New Mexico model
New Mexico is one case in which state regulators reached out to stakeholders in the tire recycling industry to help them design a scrap tire program that was user-friendly for processors, according to Jerry Woosley, vice president of State Rubber & Environmental Solutions L.L.C. in Denver City, Texas.
``The New Mexico Environmental Department wanted to write a new set of tire rules,'' said Woosley, who was one of the industry stakeholders contacted by the agency.
``The state had passed a scrap tire law in 1995, but they tried to legislate something they hadn't done before and didn't understand,'' he said.
The agency held three meetings throughout the state on the proposed rules, which went into effect Aug. 2, 1977, according to Woosley.
``Everyone who attended the meetings had a chance to make suggestions,'' he said.
ISRI has recommended guidelines for state scrap tire programs that were a long time in the making, according to Woosley.
``Those guidelines are something you can give to state legislators when you're dealing with them,'' he said. ``They provide a base on how best to regulate what we do.''