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Judge puts cap on landfill use in California County

Landfills in Solano County, California can no longer exceed their limits on accepting waste from outside the c...


Landfills in Solano County, California can no longer exceed their limits on accepting waste from outside the county, a Superior Court judge has ruled.

On May 13, 2010, a Superior Court judge in Solano County, California ruled in favour of voter-approved Measure E, which prevents Solano County landfills from accepting more than 95,000 tonnes per year of waste from outside the county.

Before the ruling, the measure, which was passed by voters in 1984, had gone unenforced by Solano County officials for years. The ruling requires county officials to uphold voter-mandated limitations on landfill use.

The county has not enforced the provisions of Measure E since the early
1990s, when the Board of Supervisors and its County Counsel determined that
Measure E was unconstitutional.

The Sierra Club, the Sustainability, Parks, Recycling and Wildlife Legal Defense Fund (SPRAWLDEF), and the Northern California Recycling Association sued the county in response, and Judge Paul Beeman ruled that Solano County must once again follow the Measure E mandate.

“Yesterday’s ruling supports the right of voters to determine important land use issues,” says Duane Kromm, a former county supervisor and member of the
Sierra Club. “Solano county voters were very clear that they did not want their county to be a cheap dumping ground for the region’s cities. This victory ensures that communities will be able to exercise their right to manage limited landfill resources moving forward.”

The measure limits the amount of garbage from out-of-county communities that can be accepted by Solano County landfills to 95,000 tonnes annually.

Since the early 1990s, when the county stopped enforcing Measure E’s limitations, up to 85 per cent of the total waste disposed of within the county has been trucked in from outside of Solano.

The issue of reinstating Measure E arose, in part, from the Potrero Hills
Landfill’s proposed expansion into the environmentally sensitive Suisun Marsh adjacent to Suisun City.

Potrero Hills brings in as much as one million tonnes of garbage annually into its Suisun City site, with most of the trash coming from beyond Solano County. Potrero Hills contends the expansion was required to handle Solano County’s waste. This need for expansion would have been avoided had the county continued to enforce Measure E over the past decade.

There is still the lingering issue of the county permit for Potrero Hills
Landfill, as Judge Beeman also ruled that the permit issued in June 2009 still stands. The permit would allow for the expansion of the landfill and acceptance of out-of-county garbage at a rate greater than allowed by Measure E. Plaintiffs intend to continue litigation to address the permit issue specifically.

“Rulings like these will send a signal to the waste management industry that it’s time to start taking waste reduction seriously,” says Robert Perlmutter of Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger, attorney for the Sierra Club on the case. “The will of the voters comes first when making long-term waste management decisions that will affect land use and water quality into the future.”


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