Rural Wrap

Trashing the Federal
Government's Plans

by Dan Steninger

arbage dumps are making headlines in a couple of northern Nevada counties. It may seem odd that garbage disposal would cause much of a ruckus in counties with millions upon millions of acres of unused land, until one takes into account that garbage dumps—much like the protection of the right to privacy—are among the powers delegated to the central government by the U.S. Constitution. (Don't bother trying to look it up; one must have the ability to divine the hidden meanings emanating from the penumbras of the words appearing in the document. It's a tricky science, best avoided by laymen.)

In Lander County, federal dump regulators have decreed that county commissioners shall proceed immediately with the closure of all county garbage dumps and then open a new, federally-approved landfill, at an estimated cost of $400,000. It appears that the run-of-the-mill type garbage dump is an unacceptable hazard to the well being of the citizenry.

But here in Elko County, a different set of federal regulators has stumbled upon an old garbage dump in the northern part of the county and decided it is so valuable that all roads leading into the area must be sealed off. It appears that after a few years' time, a garbage dump becomes an archaeological treasure. Which makes some of us wonder why we are being forced to shut them all down.

Brushing aside the deep philosophical questions here, Elko County commissioners decided a dump is just a dump and sent the county grader up north to reopen the road closed down by order of the U.S. Forest Service. They also sent a letter to the forest service advising it to quit closing down the county's roads.

The federal government justified its closure of the road due to "finding" a Chinese archaeological site. The big find, in the words of county officials, was of an old dump—of the variety the same federal government is telling us we can't have anymore; as if it had any more authority to tell us how to dispose of our garbage than it does to go around closing county roads.

Elko's commissioners have started the ball rolling with their decision to reopen the road closed by the forest service, now they need to keep it rolling by refusing to bow to the demands of the U.S. Garbage Service. They, along with their counterparts in Lander and all the other Nevada counties, should next refuse to raise the taxes of their constituents to generate money for complying with Washington regulations on what to do with municipal waste. We already know what to do with the stuff: dig a hole in the desert, invite residents to put their garbage in that hole and then cover it up when it's full. This traditional method has the benefit of costing quite a bit less than $400,000 a pop.

Telling federal regulators where to dispose of their expensive plans for new and improved garbage dumps may not be as rash an action as it appears; not in light of recent events on the national scene.

In the words of Northwestern University law Professor Steven Calabresi: "...the untold story of the recent Supreme Court term is that for the first time since the New Deal, the high court is again taking seriously the constitutional allocation of power between the national government and the states."

Calabresi, writing in the Wall Street Journal, explained: "The tenor of the new era is evident in Justice Antonin Scalia's bold majority opinion in Printz v. United States, invalidating portions of the Brady Handgun Control Act. Justice Scalia's landmark opinion firmly rejects recent congressional efforts to turn state government employees into minions of Uncle Sam ...

"His opinion reaffirms such long-ignored notions as the principle that our Constitution creates a system of `dual sovereignty,' that the states retain a residual and inviolable sovereignty that is reflected throughout the Constitution’s text, and that the framers rejected the concept of a central government that would act upon and through the states."

It sounds as if Justice Scalia could just as well have been writing about federal landfill regulations as federal gun control. u

Dan Steninger is the Editorial Page Editor of the Elko Daily Free Press.


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