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Territorial Dispatch

'Them Rates is Rising'

Feb 16, 2022 12:00AM ● By By Bruce Lee, Sacramento Taxpayers Association

Heads up! Those rates (garbage rates in this case) are rising -- now in Folsom but coming soon to a community near you!

And, what a rise! In mid-December Folsom approved a 74% increase over four years. The typical residential bill is currently $34.50 per month and will rise to $60 by 2025. The rates will rise “gradually” to $46.25 in 2022; $56 in 2023; $58 in 2024; and then finally to $60. It will be like cooking a frog to death, starting it in room-temperature water while slowly raising the heat to a boil. 

The rationale for the increase is a state mandate pushed down upon local government – in this case Senate Bill 1383 of 2016, which is attempting to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Folsom could face fines up to $10,000 per day for noncompliance. According to the city, they issued public notices and held required hearings, but there was no majority objection to the fees.

SB 1383 is a statewide effort to reduce “short-lived” climate pollutants and applies to all residents and businesses. Using 2014 levels as the standard, the intent is to reduce disposal of organic waste by 50% by January 1, 2020 (they missed that goal), and by 75% by the end of 2024! Plus, the state wants to “rescue” at least 20% of currently disposed, edible food for human consumption.

(I’m not sure what they plan to do with all of that “rescued” food. Remember the Seinfeld television show debate when George took a pastry out of the garbage – but it was “just below” the lid line! It might be worthwhile to catch that rerun.) And, “short-lived” means pollutants that have a relatively short life in the atmosphere. (Hmmm … so why worry about them? Well, I’m not a “scientist” and nobody argues with a scientist now-a-days!)

Now, there is a logic. When food scraps and compostable materials (such a paper products) are put into a landfill without access to oxygen, they break down and produce methane (CH4), which is a greenhouse gas in the atmosphere. (This is akin to cow flatulence.) And, we do have a lot of organic waste – 71% of all San Mateo County’s landfill waste is organic. And evidently food waste tallies up to about 17% of all landfill disposal in California.

Maybe we just need a mandate to buy less food or that we are required to consume all that we cook? 

Now, while some of this may seem a bit humorous, there are four serious lessons for us:

1) Who thought in 2016 when the well-intended SB 1383 passed that garbage rates would skyrocket! Policy decisions are often made based on general big-picture ideas that sound good but are made out of context. The impact trickles down.

2) Rates are just as important as taxes – so keep an eye on them!

3) Folsom purportedly had little public comment or objection, so shame on us for being indifferent.

4) Once you pay higher rates or higher taxes, there is often little guarantee on how the money will be used. These types of things can also be good rationales for higher wages and the like.

And, starting last January 1st, per SB 1383, Californians are required to recycle their food scraps and other leftovers. Your organic waste can be combined with your green waste; or maybe there will be a new “brown waste” can. Confused yet?

Meanwhile, watch out for your rates! Folsom is a harbinger for all other local governments, and the City of Sacramento City is currently working on their wastewater fees in earnest.

W. Bruce Lee is an educator and speaker (WBruceLee.com) with a career in government as an elected official and fiscal advisor, who has worked at the local, state, and federal levels. He authors the “We the Government” column as a community service. He is president of the Sacramento Taxpayers Association (SacTax) - promoting efficient, economical government; fair and equitable taxation which permits a strong, healthy economy; as well as sensible balance and rational control of government expenditures... His private message telephone is 916-624-6476.

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