California community groups sue over expansion of Chiquita Canyon Landfill
- Three California community groups have filed a civil suit against the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and a subsidiary of Waste Connections following recent approval of plans to expand the Chiquita Canyon Landfill, as reported by The Signal.
- The Val Verde Community Association, Citizens for Chiquita Canyon Landfill Compliance and Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment (SCOPE) filed the complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief. Their main issue stems from a 1997 assurance by the county board that the landfill would close by November 2019 or once it hit 23 million tons of material — a mark which has since been surpassed.
- A representative for SCOPE has said before that the legal actions aren't motivated by a desire for money. The groups have also said that they don't necessarily expect to force the site to close. Instead, they want to see a full environmental impact report completed that takes into account air quality, health effects, climate change and environmental justice concerns.
Open since 1972, the Chiquita Canyon Landfill has long provoked the ire of local residents and been a popular target for campaigns to force its closure. Many had expected the 1997 decision to be final, though after the site received a temporary waiver for exceeding capacity last year, it became clear that the end might be farther away than anticipated. The county board granted initial expansion approval in April — including terms that Waste Connections considered unfavorable — and finalized plans in July. At the time, a county supervisor described this as "the final chapter in the story."
Per those terms, Chiquita Canyon can now operate for 30 more years or until it hits 60 million tons. The agreement also includes rules for daily tonnage, requires Waste Connections to conduct environmental testing and calls for the site to become a park once it's capped. Based on reactions at the time, and the filing of this lawsuit, community groups don't feel these terms are strong enough to protect the interests of nearby residents. Based on the reaction from Waste Connections, whose CEO complained about new regulations that are estimated to cost the company $15 million per year during a recent earnings call, the company is also unhappy with the terms.
While neither the county board nor Waste Connections has spoken publicly about the lawsuit yet, it can be expected to continue creating community tension around the site for the near future. The groups behind this legal action have said they also hope to force a new conversation about waste reduction and find ways to reduce their reliance on the site. California is known for having some of the most aggressive recycling goals in the country, though the state's latest annual report showed minimal progress on those efforts as disposal rates remain steady.
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