The Utah Legislature took action Tuesday to pave the way to relocate the Stericycle medical waste incinerator from North Salt Lake to Tooele County and to create a buffer zone to avoid future clashes between the burn plant and residential neighborhoods.
The Senate gave preliminary approval Tuesday to HJR6, which gives Stericycle the required legislative approval to relocate to Tooele County, the first of several hurdles Stericycle has to clear.
"This is a very important resolution, said Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross. "If this resolution fails, Stericycle cannot move."
The resolution will likely be up for a final vote Wednesday.
The House, meantime, passed SB196 on a 44-28 vote, and sent it to Gov. Gary Herbert for his signature. The bill bans an incinerator within two miles of residences.
Rep. Becky Edwards, R-North Salt Lake, the House sponsor of the bill, said when Stericycle located in her city in the 1960s, it was already within three-quarters of a mile from residential areas — even though it was within an industrial area.
She noted that cities cannot currently block incinerators if they are located in industrial areas, as Stericyle was.
Some lawmakers said the required buffer area is too big. Rep. Curt Webb, R-Logan, said a two-mile radius includes 10,000 acres, and that is too much land to restrict from housing near an incinerator.
"I think there is some overreach there," agreed Rep. Curt Oda, R-Clearfield.
Edwards said the bill would not prevent cities from zoning to allow development to go nearer to an incinerator, and affects only the siting of new medical waste incinerators.
Rep. Kay Christofferson, R-Lehi, said perhaps laws should prevent new development from encroaching near such plants, saying residents often move near businesses they dislike and then want to stop or move them.
State regulators have issued a citation to Stericycle, alleging the smoke coming from the company’s stack has exceeded limits for dioxin, furan and nitrous oxides. And the plant failed to report exceeding emissions and rigged a stack test, regulators say. Stericycle has denied the violations and taken legal steps to fight those citations.
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