UPDATE: June 20, 2019: Judges ruled last week in favor of Rancho Viejo Waste Management's request that the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) delay its consideration of the company's proposed Webb County landfill, as reported by KGNS.
"We are confident we could have prevailed in the SOAH proceeding," C.Y. Benavides III, co-owner of Rancho Viejo Waste Management, said in a company statement. "However, it makes no sense to proceed to a full hearing on the existing floodplain map while our opponents insist a different map should be used. We need to settle the floodplain issue first and then come back to finalize the permit."
FEMA will accept flood map update requests until September, before reviewing all submitted data and issuing a final decision.
- Plans to site a landfill in Webb County, Texas hit a new hurdle last month when the Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency revised its flood plain map to include significant portions of the proposed Pescadito Environmental Resource Center's footprint.
- Rancho Viejo Waste Management (RVWM), which first submitted its application for the landfill in 2011, is asking the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) to delay consideration of the application for at least six months, following FEMA's revision. Pending a comment period, the new FEMA map could take effect by Nov. 25.
- The proposed landfill has been a contentious issue among Webb County residents, with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) receiving more than 12,000 public comments, according to Laredo Morning Times. Following a potential decision by SOAH next month, the final decision will be up to TCEQ.
RVWM's project would include nearly 953 acres of permitted area capable of accepting multiple categories of waste. Approximately 72 acres would be designated for disposal, with the site accepting an estimated 2,740 tons per day to start and potentially increasing that amount to 10,000 tons per day in the future. As proposed, the landfill could eventually peak at 139 feet above the surrounding land area when including final cover. RVWM's application also includes plans for a recycling operation and grease and grit trap waste processing facility.
According to Ray Sullivan, a lobbyist representing the site’s neighboring landowners, his clients are calling for TCEQ to return the landfill application to RVWM in order to end the development process in Webb County.
"The FEMA Map update, we believe, should be a final straw for the state to return the application and either stop the project completely or make the applicant start over," Sullivan told Waste Dive.
Sullivan said he expects to see more counties reach out to FEMA to request updates to flood maps, particularly after Hurricane Harvey.
Texas has seen several notable landfill disputes recently. Waco residents are taking the city to court over its plans to provide a second permit to Waco Regional Landfill, which is expected to reach capacity by 2024, according to the Waco-Tribune Herald. And in Guadeloupe County, the Victoria Advocate reported that multiple parties are rallying against TCEQ's decision to grant a landfill permit to Post Oak Clean Green Inc. last year.
While Texas is known for its lighter solid waste permitting requirements, the state could be headed for more industry regulation. The Texas legislature recently passed two solid waste permitting laws, which have already been signed by Gov. Greg Abbott. HB 1331 raises the application fee for a municipal solid waste permit to $2,000. HB 1435 requires the TCEQ to visit and verify application information for any facilities that will be used to store, process or dispose of municipal solid waste before a permit can be issued.
HB 4568, which would have required businesses to use floodplain information from local authorities when making decisions about where to site landfills, did not pass.