With the passage of significant federal legislation requiring new standards for collecting, processing, and disposing of all categories of waste, and the subsequent passage of state legislation in response to the federal legislation, it became readily apparent to Pennsylvania waste haulers that the “old ways” of operating their businesses were over. The new legislation required haulers to become adept at conforming their daily operations to meet the more stringent standards now legally required of them in their businesses.
During the period of time that this new legislation was being discussed and eventually enacted, one of the early observers of this sea of change in the waste industry realized that the many components of the waste steam would undergo intense scrutiny by both federal and state regulators, and that recycling would become a major factor in the industry.
Because of his involvement since 1984 with the development of an innovative system to dramatically increase the percentage of recyclable material which could be removed from the solid waste stream, Gary Roberts became very much aware of the growing influence of regulators in the collecting, processing, and disposal of solid waste. Due to his almost daily contact with municipal, state, and federal officials whose approval would be required to approve his proposed recycling system, Gary sensed the future need for haulers to familiarize themselves with the increasing layers of regulations which would directly and significantly impact their daily operations.
With the 1988 passage of Act 101 in Pennsylvania mandating a reduction of the volume of municipal solid waste, and a parallel requirement of expansion of recycling volumes, Gary realized that industry standards were such that a team effort, including haulers, municipal staff, state administrators, federal regulators, and industry representatives was essential to the proper handling of waste disposal in the Commonwealth.
To that end, Gary enlisted the aid of Mark McClellan, former Pennsylvania Deputy Secretary for Environmental Protection from 1987-1991, who was instrumental in the development and approval of the municipal waste regulations referenced above and the implementation of the Commonwealth’s recycling program and municipal solid waste planning. Mark helped Gary formulate a plan for Gary’s recycling operation. They also worked closely with one another in implementing changes in the way the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (“DEP”) viewed and worked with Pennsylvania waste haulers. At the same time, Gary encouraged other local independent waste haulers to discuss and review how these regulations would impact their companies.
With the enacted legislation and newly required operating standards, the waste industry also experienced a wave of consolidation of companies operating in the Commonwealth. This prompted the smaller independent waste hauling companies to contemplate the avenues open to them to put themselves in a better position to remain competitive in the industry while operating within the boundaries of the new legislation. All of this activity in the industry reinforced concerns by the group that any proposed action by them individually to protect their interests would most likely be beyond their means.
Locally, a small group of waste haulers had loosely organized as the Pennsylvania Sanitary Disposal Association (“PSDA”) and were recruiting new members. This group had been held together for many years by Bob Aivazian, whose company Eagle Equipment Corp. was an equipment supplier with relationships with most of the local hauling companies. This group included Walt Leck, George Leck and Son; Tom Vile, ES Vile and Sons; Fran Gorski, Gorski Trash Removal; Pete Vile, Northeast Disposal; Susan Tinari, Tinari Container Service; and Gary Roberts, T&L Containers Services.
For 14 years PSDA had supported the local independent haulers when issues involving municipal regulation, policy changes, and pressures from the large public companies that controlled the local disposal facilities, threatened their businesses. Early on, the value of “strength in numbers” became obvious to the group. Bob and Gary decided that the time had come to add muscle to the strength of this group and this led to the 1991 formation of the Pennsylvania Independent Waste Haulers Association (“PIWHA”). While Gary, Walt and others asked Bob to continue as the President of this new association, Bob insisted that the leader had to be from a company directly involved in the collection industry. This job proved to be overwhelming to more than one well intentioned volunteer before the responsibilities of PIWHA President firmly settled on the shoulders of Tom Vile. Tom worked tirelessly, attempting to reach all independent haulers in Pennsylvania, emphasizing that no single company could have a voice strong enough to be heard by the legislators. As membership ranks grew, Tom, now Vice President Walt, and Gary assumed increasingly active roles in PIWHA’s activities and interests, meeting with local waste planning officials, senior DEP staff and regulators throughout the Commonwealth.
During this period, PIWHA became increasingly active in promoting the interests of its expanding membership. Gary, along with Walt and Tom, continued to enlarge PIWHA’s circle of contacts at the local and state levels. Eventually PIWHA became recognized as the voice of the independent waste hauler in Pennsylvania. As a result of their activities on behalf of PIWHA, numerous local waste planning officials, senior DEP staff, and other regulators met with and often sought the advice of Gary and other PIWHA officers in discussions related to implementation of local and state solid waste regulations.
In 1999, Gary sold his businesses but remained fully devoted to the furtherance of PIWHA’s mission. In 2001, the PIWHA Board of Directors, recognizing the value of Gary’s experience and contacts in the industry, offered him the position of Executive Director. Since that time PIWHA has expanded its role as the voice of the independent hauler in Pennsylvania continuing to consult with local state and DEP officials on all aspects of the waste disposal and environmental industries.
Shortly after the formation of PIWHA Gary suggested the need for an attorney with a strong environmental background who was familiar with Act 101 and the regulations promulgated under Act 101.. Gary then introduced Tony Mazullo to the PIWHA Board of Directors. Tony had just completed an appointment as an administrative judge with the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board. It did not take long after being retained for Tony to became part of the PIWHA family.
The close relationship between PIWHA and Tony, as its legal counsel, resulted in several lawsuits which established precedents governing rights between state actions and hauler operations. In a series of cases brought by PIWHA on behalf of its members, the Courts decided in favor of PIWHA in matters involving: 1) discriminatory pricing for waste disposal; 2) imposition of administrative costs by municipal governments over and above contracted disposal fees; 3) licensing requirements imposed by municipal authorities in violation of state imposed regulations; and 4) regulatory limitations imposed by municipalities in violation of state imposed limitations of haulers’ operations.
In much of the litigation commenced by PIWHA, in state courts as wells as in the federal courts, PIWHA was able to recover its legal fees and costs in addition to decisions by the Courts upholding PIWHA’s position. Recognizing PIWHA’s success in litigating issues under the new state and federal statutes and regulations, the Pennsylvania DEP, other state officials, and municipal officials sought PIWHA’s position in operational matters prior to imposing new and expanded interpretations of regulations affecting hauler’s operations in the collection, hauling and disposal of solid waste.
The resultant collaboration between the regulator and the regulated resulted in less confrontation between the parties, and more conferencing and open discussion of issues arising out of operational problems experienced by haulers and the regulators.
With the untimely passing of Tom Vile, Walt stepped up as PIWHA President, and today continues to advance its presence on several fronts. Walt has been instrumental in attracting many vendors to become associate members of PIWHA. Walt’s efforts in attracting these members and negotiating on behalf of the PIWHA with these vendors resulted in special pricing and significant donations to PIWHA. Further, Walt’s dedication to the PIWHA mission has been further evidenced by numerous significant monetary donations to PIWHA along with substantial contributions of time and resources by his company, George Leck & Son, Inc. As President, Walt has set the tone for many other members to do the same.
Currently the presence of the PIWHA continues to be felt throughout the Commonwealth. Its expertise within the industry is well recognized and sought after and its influence on new and existing legislations and regulations continues. It has established a reputation as a legal champion for the small hauler, ready, willing and capable to square off in the courts against counties and municipalities when their actions are violative of Act 101 and other regulations
On behalf of its membership, PIWHA has established formal contacts with DEP in an ongoing effort to make known to DEP the significant manner in which the laws and regulations enforced by DEP may adversely affect PIWHA members. In addition to working with DEP and its staff, PIWHA has established contacts with numerous members of the Pennsylvania legislature to discuss the enactment of new laws, and the amendment of existing laws, which affect the waste industry either directly or indirectly. Further, PIWHA has established ongoing relationships with other waste related associations operating in the Commonwealth to keep abreast of legislative and regulatory matters affecting all facets of the industry. Since its inception, various initiatives undertaken by officers of PIWHA have led to recognition, by Pennsylvania legislators and DEP, of the expertise of PIWHA with regard to implementation of laws and regulations by the Commonwealth and various municipalities throughout the Commonwealth.