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Trash law sent to S.C. high court

The S.C. Supreme Court will be asked to weigh in on an ongoing federal lawsuit over a trash law passed by Horry County Council last year.

The "flow control" law requires that all trash collected in the county go to a landfill off S.C. 90 operated by the Horry County Solid Waste Authority, an arm of county government, or go to another public facility chosen by the authority. Several local private landfill owners and waste haulers have argued that the law tries to supersede the state's solid waste laws. A federal judge ruled Friday that the S.C. Supreme Court would be asked to weigh in on that question before he moves forward with the case.

"Certification of an issue is not often done," said Stan Barnett, the attorney for Horry County and the defendants in the case. "What it means is that if you have a case in federal court, and there is an issue that involves purely a matter of state law, and the federal court thinks it's not sufficiently answered by precedent, they can ask the Supreme Court to answer that question. We have an affidavit from the founder of the state's solid waste program, and he has said the county law clearly does not interfere with the state's program."

Attorneys for the waste haulers and the county and waste authority will have 30 days to agree on the wording of the question as well as some basic facts of the case before the question will be posed to the S.C. Supreme Court. The court will then have 45 days to decide whether it will answer the question or refuse it.

"We are pleased that the judge agreed to grant our motion to certify the state question," said Tommy Lavender, the attorney for the Sandlands C&D and Express Waste Disposal companies. "There is an issue with prolonging the case, because the longer it goes on, the more economic difficulty it puts our client in."

The case was originally filed in state court, then moved to federal court upon the county's request. The ordinance went into effect in July. Money from tipping fees at the landfill is used for county education and county recycling programs.