The solid waste industry is happy in Florida, after the state legislature passed two bills the National Solid Wastes Management Association (NSWMA) had targeted as key pieces of legislation.

The first piece, House Bill 503, would double the term of permitting extensions for solid waste facilities to 20 years from 10. Facilities without leachate collection systems could extend their permit terms to 10 years from 5. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Jimmy Patronis (R-Panama City), the NSWMA said in a news release.

The second bill, House Bill 7003 sponsored by Rep. Steve Crisafulli (R-Merritt Island), would create a statewide environmental resource permitting system. The legislation would provide consistency to the five Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) districts with regard to the permitting process.

The bills have to go through the formality of being signed by the speaker of the House and the president of the Senate. Then they go to Gov. Rick Scott to be signed into law, says Keyna Cory, longtime Florida Chapter lobbyist for NSWMA, in an interview.

She says the hope is for the governor to have the bills by mid-April and that they are signed in time for WasteExpo. The NSWMA people worked closely with the Florida DEP, “So we feel very comfortable this legislation will be signed into law.” She adds that the current administration is more business friendly than past administrations.

NSWMA Florida Chapter Chairman John Clifford expressed his pleasure with the passage of the two bills. “Our chapter’s two top priorities were passed this session, and both of them were unanimously approved,” he said. The association said each bill protects the environment without presenting a burden to industry.

The pending laws will mean significant financial savings for solid waste companies operating in the Sunshine State, Cory says. The longer extensions could mean savings of from $15,000 to more than $75,000. Small waste companies can invest those savings in equipment or their facilities. For larger companies it could translate into additional hiring and/or more equipment.

The bills also make participation optional, Cory says. Companies still will have to pay for their permits, but they’ll have a longer time over which to pay.

“It was a significant victory for the Florida chapter,” she says. “We have a lot of people that will be able to take advantage of this extension.”

Passage of the bills was a long process for the NSWMA effort. It began last year, Cory says, when they were able to include language about an extension to 20 years in a larger environmental bill. That bill did not make it out of the Senate, however.

This year NSWMA went to the same sponsor of a big environmental permitting bill and put the same language in. There was a snag with the proposal for facilities without leachate collection systems; the DEP did not want to grant permits without groundwater monitoring. Cory says through working with the DEP they came up with the extension to 10 years, but those companies need to be on site for four and a half years prior to the application for permit and have had no violations. “We agreed with that, because our NSWMA members are in compliance and good stewards.”

But to be safe, the NSWMA asked for a separate bill just with the permit extension, because bills often get combined or stalled, Cory says. And that paid off. The extension-only bill, House Bill 663, nearly passed, but one senator added an amendment that the DEP couldn’t permit a landfill in an environmentally sensitive area of central Florida known as the Wekiva Study Area.

“We would never do that, but once you start putting into statutes that you can’t put a landfill [in certain places] you throw up red flags for companies that want to come to Florida trying to build a landfill,” she says. NSWMA let that bill die.

Cory says she wasn’t the only lobbyist that got the bills passed. “I really have to congratulate the Florida chapter of NSWMA. They talk to their members, and when it came to key votes in the process they would pick up the phone and call their own local legislator. And that made a big difference. We always say grass roots efforts are still important and that shined through on that.”