Landfill fight not over

Published 12:02 am Saturday, February 26, 2011

A moratorium called by Gov. Robert Bentley on new large landfills in the state does not mean that a proposed Conecuh County landfill project is dead, both sides of the fight said.

Bentley signed an executive order Wednesday that sets a moratorium on new landfills and also directs the Alabama Department of Environmental Management and the state health department to develop new rules for the approval of landfills.

“We’re not out of the woods yet,” said state Rep. Alan Baker, R-Brewton. “This does not kill the process. But it is a huge step in the right direction.”

Baker has been studying ways to halt or slow the project, a proposed 5,100-acre landfill that would be located 6 miles north of the I-65 and Alabama 41 intersection.

A spokeswoman for Conecuh Woods, the developer which has filed an application for the landfill near Repton, said the executive order will not have an effect on the project.

“We do not believe the governor’s order impacts the application process that is under way in Conecuh County in any manner,” Rachel Dickinson said.

ADEM spokesman Scott Hughes said the department’s attorneys and staff are reviewing the executive order to determine how to proceed.

“The department has always followed state and federal regulations, and we will continue to operate in that manner,” Hughes said.

Baker said he expects the application process for the Conecuh Woods landfill to continue, including a public hearing set for 9 a.m. Thursday, March 10, at Reid State Technical College.

Johnny Andrews, president of the anti-landfill organization Citizens for a Clean Southwest Alabama, said the group will continue to fight the project.

“Although we think the governor’s decision is wonderful and we hope it will be a huge part of what happens at Conecuh Woods, we are not stopping our work,” he said.

“We will go on as if this had never happened. I don’t see Conecuh Woods just giving up at this point, although that would be good. We still have a lot of work to do and we want to encourage everyone who can to show up at the meeting in Evergreen on March 10.

Bentley’s executive order notes that “the rural areas of Alabama are prime targets for the location of landfills and other solid waste management facilities to collect and manage volumes of solid waste in excess of that generated by their locales and regions, including solid waste from out of state.”

The executive order states that Alabama’s current regulations do not adequately allow for the review and analysis of the impact of large landfills.

The executive order directs ADEM and the health department to adopt new rules and requirements for landfills with:

• A proposed capacity in excess of 1,500 tons per day

• A proposed capacity of 2,000 cubic yards per day or more

• A site consisting of 500 acres or more

• A capacity or site which exceeds the minimum amounts above when combined with existing or proposed facilities located in the same county or counties or within 20 miles thereof

• A proposed capacity more than that reasonably anticipated in the future for the communities located in the county or within 20 miles of the facility.

The proposed Conecuh Woods facility would, at its peak, take in up to 10,000 tons of garbage per day from all of the states east of the Mississippi River plus Louisiana, according to the application for the project.

Conecuh Woods officials have also said the project could generate up to $294 million in host fees for Conecuh County over the life of the landfill.

Area residents opposed to the landfill were pleased by news of the executive order.

“This is an answer to a prayer,” said Ruth Harrell, chairwoman of the Coalition for a Healthier Escambia County.