Monday, February 7, 2011

Judge rejects landfill suit as premature

By John Berhman
December 4, 2004

VISTA – In a tentative ruling, a judge has thrown out most of a lawsuit challenging the county's decision to grant a permit for the proposed Gregory Canyon landfill in Pala

Superior Court Judge Michael Anello concluded that the lawsuit was premature and that the attorney representing the Pala Band of Mission Indians should have waited for the state to approve the landfill permit before filing the suit. 

Gary Erbeck, director of the county's Department of Environmental Health, approved the permit for a solid-waste facility June 2, basing his decision on the environmental report the county approved in February 2003. The lawsuit was filed in July. 

A three-member review panel of the state Integrated Waste Management Board is scheduled to consider the county's approval of the landfill permit Monday in Sacramento. A final decision by the seven-member state board is scheduled for either Dec. 13 or 14. 

Anello issued a similar ruling Sept. 17, this one related to a challenge to the county's approval of the environmental report for the landfill. He concluded the suit had been filed prematurely.
Ted Griswold, the attorney representing the Pala band, said yesterday he was hoping for a ruling this time that would have declared that the environmental report was inadequate, thus forcing the county to reconsider its approval of the permit. 

"We were afraid if we waited too long to file our suit, and then the state approved the county permit, then it would have been too late for us to challenge the county's approval," Griswold said. "The law is a little unclear in this area, and we wanted to make sure we covered all of our bases." 

Attorney Wes Peltzer, who represents the landfill developer, said he believes the law is quite clear and that a judge cannot make a ruling on the county decision about the permit until it is considered final. 

The lawsuit is one aspect of a 15-year battle to block construction of the landfill, proposed for a rural canyon off state Route 76 about three miles east of its intersection with Interstate 15. Proposition B, a ballot measure intended to stop the landfill, was overwhelmingly defeated Nov. 2.

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