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MDEQ rejects landfill proposal

[6/4/03]JACKSON A landfill plan was rejected by the state pollution-control agency Tuesday, giving a victory to the many Yokena-area residents who have opposed it.

The plan, which called for a 10-acre landfill on private land off Jeff Davis Road, in southern Warren County, was permitted 17 years ago by the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality. That permit had no expiration date, but environmental laws and regulations have changed since then.

“The county says it doesn’t even need a landfill,” said MDEQ Permit Board member Kent Ford, who made the motion that carried 4-2, with one abstention.

The plan, proposed by Warren County business partners Paul Kelly Loyacono and Betty Ewell, is valid and a “political,” decision to reject it will be appealed, Loyacono said.

Among those who spoke Tuesday was Bill Lauderdale, the county supervisor from District 4, where the landfill would be located. In December, the Warren County Board of Supervisors resolved 4-1 to petition the MDEQ to stop the plan. Such a move would, under current state law, require Loyacono and Ewell to seek county approval of any new landfill they might seek to create.

“We are very, very strongly opposed to this landfill,” said Vicksburg attorney Andy Sumrall, who said he represented the majority of landowners in the area, 15 or more of whom appeared to have also traveled to the meeting.

Sen. Mike Chaney, R-Vicksburg, also appeared and argued the Legislature’s modifications of environmental laws in the past five years were not intended “to circumvent” local control over such plans.

The MDEQ board addressed the question of whether, under current law, the county’s position that no need for a landfill exists is reason enough to disapprove the plan even though the permit received in 1986 had no expiration date.

The request before the board was for reissuance of the permit, allowing the 10-acre landfill, with the three other environmental permits that have since been required for such a facility.

Household waste from Warren County, which has no operating landfill, is trucked outside the county for disposal. No landfill in the county has accepted such waste since before 1990.

Loyacono, who appeared with Ewell and landfill-design consultant Gordon Boutwell, said the competition a local landfill would bring would benefit county waste-disposal customers by driving down their costs.

He said the plan was supported by many local businesses.

“We’re not asking for the government to do anything for us,” Loyacono said. “If (an approved landfill) doesn’t go, if we don’t get any customers, the citizens have lost nothing. It may prove itself so valuable, they may say, Do more.'”

MDEQ’s chief attorney, Chuck Barlow, said this is the first time the board has dealt with such a question.

“We have a prejudice toward making permits go back through the county planning process,” he said, referring to the 1991 Solid Waste Management Authority Act, which requires approval of such plans by county boards of supervisors.

“The difference here is that you’ve got one that’s grandfathered.”

MDEQ environmental permits division chief Jerry Cain said his staff had reviewed the application from the landowners, whose company is called Warren County Waste Disposal Inc., and the 100-plus page transcript of comments made at January’s hearing.

“This project can operate within all state and federal environmental laws and regulations,” the staff’s statement said in part.

Voting in the majority with Ford, of the state oil and gas board, were the department of agriculture and commerce’s Jim Lipe, the department of health’s Ralph Turnbo and the office of coastal ecology’s Jan Boyd. Chairman Cragin Knox of the MDEQ’s geology office and Jamie Crawford of its land and water resources office dissented. The department of wildlife, fisheries and parks’ Christopher Alonzo abstained.

“The criteria for the board is pretty simple,” he said, adding that to allow the application of newer laws to an earlier permit would go against the intent of 1998 legislative action. He said state environmental law was modified then, at the MDEQ’s request, to give it more flexibility in requiring local approval in such situations.

Loyacono said Chaney “used his political position, in our view, to cost every citizen of Warren County more in waste pickup.”

Chaney is a member of legislative committees that oversee the agencies represented by three of the board members who voted Tuesday to reject the plan, Loyacono said.

Chaney responded that it is his job “to do what’s in the best interest for the public.”

Loyacono said he and Ewell plan to appeal the board’s Tuesday decision, which Barlow had said was preliminary.

On such an appeal, a more-formal, trial-type hearing would be held before another board vote, for a final decision, Barlow added.

If either party appealed a final decision by the board, it would be made to Warren County Chancery Court.

Among the concerns residents expressed in January was that the landfill, once built on 10 acres, would be expanded on the site, which has room for a much larger facility.

“We all recognize 10 acres is an incredibly small landfill,” Knox said to Loyacono. “Can this board expect” a request for expansion of it?

“I would not say in the near future at all,” said Loyacono, adding that, based on the 220-tons-a-day fill rate Boutwell had given, the 10 acres would have 10 to 12 years’ worth of capacity.