SALT LAKE CITY -- A Democratic lawmaker has stepped forward with legislation addressing Stericycle and the incineration of medical waste in Utah.
Sen. Luz Robles, D-Salt Lake City, is sponsoring SB 64, which would limit the incineration of medical waste within a 5-mile radius of a residential area and also allow the state to enact tougher standards than the federal government in addressing some emission issues.
The bill would also stiffen fines for potential violations.
A fiscal note attached to Robles' bill estimates the state would collect an additional $300,000 a year in revenue as a result of the changes.
Robles, who represents the Rose Park area of Salt Lake City, said the presence of Stericycle in North Salt Lake impacts her area as much as it does southern Davis County.
She said there has been a huge learning curve in conjunction with the business, but one thing is clear: The company needs to leave its residential location.
"It's important they move out of the valley. It's impacting people and their families. I'm trying to understand the impact healthwise, but we need to make sure we know the health impact of this issue."
Her legislation is annoying some people, and not just those with links to Stericycle.
Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, expressed frustration that his Democratic colleague is running legislation on something he is trying to address during the session as well.
He said his bill, which is still being drafted, would limit the incineration of medical waste within a 2-mile radius of a residential area. Weiler also worries the bill Robles is running could lead to costly litigation if it's not altered.
"If Senator Robles is successful in shutting down Stericycle, that is a taking. They would sue this state for millions and likely win. I'm not sure she's done her diligence," Weiler said.
Robles expressed willingness to work with Weiler and other lawmakers as her bill moves forward.
The lawmakers face opposition on the Hill.
Weiler said the Illinois-based company has hired an army of lobbyists to push him and other lawmakers on private property and vested rights.
Robles told the Standard-Examiner she has also been approached by lobbyists for the company.
The company has its own issues with the state. The Department of Air Quality on May 28 issued Stericycle a notice of violation and order to comply for multiple violations of its air-quality operating permit.
The order required Stericycle to take immediate action to bring operations into full compliance. Stericycle has contested many of the findings, and the matter has been referred to an administrative law judge.
The company has announced its intention to relocate to Tooele County, but the process could take up to two years to complete.
Dr. Brian Moench, president of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, said emissions from Stericycle would not be safe even if they were within state standards. He said his group would oppose relocating the company anywhere in the Beehive State.
A neighborhood group has also become increasingly active on the matter. It has a meeting Feb. 26 meeting scheduled with Gov. Gary Herbert.
In the meantime, neither Robles nor Weiler is certain about the future of waste incineration in Utah.
"It's reviewing and assessing a whole industry, and I don't know if I have an answer that they are welcome or not," Robles said.
Weiler, too, in unsure.
"If they are truly harming people, I don't think they belong. I don't think the medical evidence is there," he said.
"I've talked to experts; (incineration is) actually needed and a valuable way to dispose of waste. Our job is not to pick winners and losers in private business."