- The Oregon Supreme Court is expected to hear a case this fall involving a Waste Management landfill and local land-use activists, according to The Newberg Graphic. The activists, who filed with the Supreme Court, say a recent court ruling allowing Waste Management to expand the Riverbend landfill in Yamhill County, OR, would drastically change land-use laws in Oregon. Yet Waste Management spokeswoman Jackie Lang told Waste Dive the company expects approval for a 29-acre expansion of the landfill, noting the expansion has been "vetted, "scrutinized" and "further validated by recent court decisions."
- The Riverbend landfill is temporarily reducing incoming tonnage "while we wait for the expansion to be officially approved," Lang said. Waste Management is diverting some incoming waste to a nearby landfill in Benton County, which is not a Waste Management facility.
- Ilsa Perse, a representative of Stop the Dump Coalition, told Waste Dive in an interview that the lawsuit isn't about the landfill, but instead about land use. According to The Newberg Graphic, the latest ruling appears to allow non-farming activities on land already zoned for farmers, so long as anyone who is adversely effected is compensated. "If we win, it will not close the landfill," Perse said. "This case is about the intricacies of Oregon land use."
According to some reports, the Waste Management facility would have reached capacity this summer without expansion, perhaps explaining why the company chose to divert tonnage to a facility that they don't operate. Since the Oregon Supreme Court will not be hearing the case until the fall, Waste Management could be losing potential income from tipping fees for quite some time.
This is not, of course, the first time that a lawsuit has blocked a landfill from expanding. But this is certainly a rare occasion in which a court case of this nature could impact statewide law. The decision of the appellate court was, according to Perse, written in a vague way. But the Supreme Court "took [the case], which we think means they know they have to clarify it," Perse said.
The state's complicated land-use law history has kept lots from being subdivided and kept large swaths of the state agricultural. But if the Supreme Court upholds the decision that would allow non-farming activities on land that had previously been zoned exclusively for farms, industry could rapidly expand into rural Oregon.