Bottle bill deal may be in wind.

Author:Monahan, John J.

Byline: John J. Monahan

BOSTON -- House and Senate leaders under pressure to expand the bottle bill to include water and juice bottles, or see it decided by voters in the fall, said Thursday they will try to develop a compromise to address concerns of bottlers and supermarkets opposed to the measure.

State Rep. John D. Keenan, D-Salem, and Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield, co-chairmen of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy, said after listening to three hours of testimony on the proposal at the Statehouse that they will seek a compromise.

"I would like to put together a few folks to see if we could work on this. I do think the petition process is a sloppy process,'' said Mr. Keenan of the prospect of voters adopting the law as proposed for the ballot, without fashioning the expansion in a way that would reduce costs for bottlers, distributors and handlers of used bottles.

"There is going to be a big winner and a big loser if we go that way,'' said Mr. Keenan who has opposed the proposed expansion measure. "I would rather see a bill that can build consensus and accomplish what we all want to do, which is reduce waste and increase recycling.''

Mr. Downing said those talks have to include provisions to create an incentive to redeem or recycle water and juice bottles, which the committee was told at length in testimony at the hearing are causing litter and pollution problems all over the state.

"If you start with the premise of increasing recycling and creating an incentive for a part of the waste stream that there is not a strong enough incentive in place now, and we want to work towards that, that ought to be a good jumping off spot,'' Mr. Downing said.

Prospects for a compromise however were not high, considering the level of disagreement between the opponents and environmentalists that has gone on for more than a decade. While the Senate has voted for the expansion in the past, the measure has never gotten out of committee in the House for a floor vote.

Janet Domenitz, executive director of MassPIRG that collected 30,000 of the 130,000 signatures to put the initiative petition in line for the November ballot, said bottle bill backers were unsuccessful when they tried to reach some compromise with opponents last September.

She told the committee that Sen. Michael O. Moore, D-Millbury, who has submitted an alternative measure to eliminate the existing deposit system and charge a 1-cent fee on all recyclable...

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