CNMI Attorney General Edward Manibusan warned yesterday against a Senate bill to give Rota and Tinian mayors control over solid waste funds for their home islands, noting that the funds are under the constitutional control of the CNMI Finance Department and transferring expenditure authority could risk federal grants loss or fines.
Senate Bill 19-60, if enacted, would essentially allow the mayors of Tinian and Rota to serve as the expenditure authority for the Solid Waste Management Revolving Fund programs on their islands. The bill is currently under review by the House Committee on Judiciary and Government Operations.
In a letter yesterday to committee chair Rep. Glenn Maratita, Manibusan notes two concerns over the authority over the funds, and the expertise needed to manage these solid waste programs.
Manibusan notes that if the Senate bill is enacted into law, these funds would remain “Commonwealth and public funds which are subject to the constitutional authority of the Secretary of Finance” to control and regulate the expenditure of public funds.
Further, Manibusan is concerned over the “extensive federal governance over solid waste management.”
The U.S. Code on waste disposal regulations is “114 pages long in two-column layout,” he said.
And the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s compliance manual on solid waste management runs another 242 pages, he added.
Noncompliance with these regulations, Manibusan said, can result in the loss of federal grants or in penalties—“not to mention the potential for environmental degradation.”
“While the mayors of Tinian and Rota may be knowledgeable about their islands’ solid waste needs, it is unlikely that they will be able to familiarize themselves with federal solid waste management rules unless they undertake extensive training or hire additional employees,” Manibusan said. “Without such expertise, a misdirected expenditure could cost the Commonwealth a significant sum of money.”
Manibusan concludes with this recommendation: a cost-benefit analysis of the bill and whether it would “frustrate the ability of the Department of Public Works and the Bureau of Environment Quality” to do their jobs in in complying with federal solid waste management law.