Laredo, Texas landfill approval stalled again after flood plain concerns
- Officials in Webb County, Texas have put an additional roadblock in front of approval for a municipal waste landfill — to be called the Pescadito Environmental Resource Center — proposed by developer Carlos "C.Y." Benavides III. Officials say they want to consult with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on whether the site sits within a 100-year flood plain.
- The Webb County administration says that flood plain maps of the area are more than 10 years old and are based on estimates, rather than more accurate hydraulics and hydrology studies. Earlier this year, Webb County conducted its own study and concluded FEMA would agree with the new findings if it updated its own flood plain maps of the area.
- The landfill received initial approval from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) back in January, which included the acceptance of Class 1 industrial waste.
Benavides first began the approval process in 2011 and has encountered multiple roadblocks to final approval of the proposed facility. Now, The Texas Tribune reports local residents are concerned about environmental contamination. An environmental attorney representing Citizens Against Laredo Landfill, Marisa Perales, said the project is "risky and nonsensical" in light of its location close to a flood plain.
However, Benavides feels this is simply a last attempt to derail his proposed facility, saying that FEMA's maps are accurate as they stand, asserting activism is prohibiting movement forward.
This is not the first time he has encountered resistance from the community. In addition to the usual complaints about noise, pollution and smell, The Texas Tribune reported that "nothing about the landfill has come easy. Years of arguments between Benavides and the Webb County Planning Department resulted in a now-dropped lawsuit against the county flood plain administrator, family disputes over property rights and accusations of environmental racism."
A preliminary contested case hearing is set for July 18, where opponents will bring their case against the project. TCEQ grants hearings only if the requestor can demonstrate that they are an "affected person."
After Hurricane Harvey, any new construction in Texas will be met with anxiety over whether it conflicts with flood plains. While the 100-year flood plain model has become the standard for judging flood risk, disputes over the legitimacy of FEMA records remain a challenge for developers.
- The Texas Tribune In years-long fight over proposed South Texas landfill, flood risks now take center stage
- Texas Commission on Environmental Quality Draft Permit
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