Attorneys argue about landfill case

Published 9:48 pm Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Attorneys for landfill developer Conecuh Woods and the Conecuh County Commission argued Wednesday that a judge should dismiss a lawsuit against the project, in part because plaintiffs have other recourse to oppose the landfill before it would receive final approval.

Last spring, the commission approved an application from Conecuh Woods to build a 5,100-acre landfill near Repton, despite strong public opposition to the project. Repton has filed suit against the project, and cities including Brewton, Atmore and Flomaton and Escambia County have petitioned to join the suit.

“Conecuh Woods is not doing anything to harm the plaintiffs, the Conecuh County Commission is not doing anything to harm the plaintiffs,” Conecuh Woods attorney Al Agricola said. “Even if you believe some harm could be done in the future, there is a statutory appeals process to ADEM.”

But plaintiffs’ attorneys said the approvals process is not integrated and the lawsuit was the only opportunity for Repton to address Conecuh County’s approval of the landfill application.

“So if you don’t attack it here you waive your right?” asked Judge Burt Smithart of Bullock County, who was appointed to the case after local judges recused themselves.

Attorneys also argued over whether the county should have disclosed terms of a host fee agreement before a public hearing on the landfill. The public hearing drew a large crowd, with a majority opposed to the landfill.

Repton attorneys said the statute requires “all pertinent documents” be released to the public, but Conecuh Woods and Conecuh County attorneys said no rules directly relate to a host fee agreement, and it had not been drawn up when the public hearing was held.

Also Wednesday, Smithart heard arguments from attorneys for cities and counties who want to join the lawsuit with Repton.

Ed Hines, representing Brewton, Atmore, Flomaton and Escambia County, said those communities will be affected by the landfill.

“As long as water flows downhill and gravity rules the earth, we have an injury,” Hines said. “Escambia County can bring data to the table about the need for a landfill. The need has dropped almost two-thirds, and we are going to get a dump for the rest of the country.”

Conecuh Woods officials have said the landfill will accept waste from 28 states.

Hines said Escambia County’s landfill — Timberlands — was built because it was a “necessary evil,” but that the Conecuh Woods landfill was simply “evil.”

His remarks drew applause from the crowded courtroom, filled with members of the grassroots group Citizens for a Clean Southwest Alabama, which has opposed the landfill.