Thursday, June 23, 2011

Gregory Canyon Landfill challenge dismissed

San Diego Union Tribune
June 22, 2011

PALA — A state agency has dismissed a challenge made by opponents of the long-sought Gregory Canyon landfill  in rural North County, saying that a recent decision to recommend the issuance of a Solid Waste Permit by San Diego County was based on a sound and legally complete application.

That recommendation must still be approved by Cal Recycle, the state agency that oversees landfill development.

Just last week a lawsuit was filed by opponents of the landfill challenging the county’s decision, a move that almost guarantees another delay of the project, which has been in development for nearly two decades.

The landfill would be built about three miles east of Interstate 15 just south of state Route 76 in a canyon west of Gregory Mountain. Several environmental groups concerned about the effect a trash dump might have on the San Luis Rey River, and the Pala Indians, whose reservation lies just to the east, have been fighting the plans since the 1990s.

The challenge to the county’s approval of the permit came from the Pala Indians who maintain the landfill would be built near sacred land.

To complicate matters further, a bill in Sacramento that would prohibit building landfills near a river or near sacred Indian sites is working its way through the Legislature this summer. If it passes and is signed by the governor, it to would likely become the subject of a lawsuit by Gregory Canyon Ltd., the would-be developers who have spent more than $60 million on the project already.

The developers have said they are committed to the project and have worked too hard to ever give up.

Even with the issuance of a Solid Waste Permit, several other key permits are still needed before construction could begin.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

State Agency Decision Favors Gregory Canyon Landfill

PRESS RELEASE                                       
June 20, 2011

State Agency Decision Favors Gregory Canyon Landfill
CalRecycle Declares Landfill Permit to be “Complete and Correct”

San Diego, CA- The Gregory Canyon Landfill project cleared another regulatory hurdle when the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) ruled that the project’s Solid Waste Facility Permit application satisfactorily addresses all application requirements. CalRecycle’s decision to declare the Gregory Canyon Landfill application “complete and correct” is yet another affirmation that this waste management project has met all the regulatory hurdles required to provide San Diego County residents with the most environmentally protected landfill in the country – one that sets a new standard of excellence.

“CalRecycle’s decision is one more affirmation that the Gregory Canyon Landfill project meets and even exceeds all environmental requirements,” said project manager Jim Simmons. “The Gregory Canyon Landfill design will both respect and restore the surrounding environment, while providing San Diego County residents with the low-cost, long-term waste management solution they need,” Simmons continued.

“After more than 20 years of scientific scrutiny and innovative engineering, the project launch date is finally near.  We are eager to begin.  The sooner we start, the sooner we can create a state-of-the-art landfill that will be a model for the rest of the country – a project that preserves nearby lands while creating hundreds of new jobs for San Diego County residents.”

CalRecycle’s June 16th decision was in response to a regulatory challenge by the Pala Band of Mission Indians, which had appealed a decision by the San Diego County Department of Environmental Health in its capacity as Solid Waste Local Enforcement Agency (LEA).  On May 13, 2011, the LEA issued a Solid Waste Facility Permit for the Gregory Canyon Landfill after determining the application was “complete and correct.” The Pala Band of Mission Indians challenged the LEA’s “complete and correct” declaration on 13-points, but CalRecyle rejected each charge and stated that the “relevant evidence and administrative record are not in dispute.”  The application submitted by Gregory Canyon Landfill provided an extensive body of scientific evidence and detailed engineering plans to ensure the project offers the highest level of environmental protection possible.

CalRecycle’s next step is to rule whether to “concur” with the LEA’s permit decision, a ruling is expected by July 13th, 2011.

Gregory Canyon Landfill has been in development for more than 20-years and received two overwhelming public votes of support in two separate countywide elections, in 1994 and 2004.

The Gregory Canyon Landfill is located along SR76, 3 ½ miles east of Interstate 15.  The project has incorporated an unprecedented double liner system with five containment layers, which will ensure protection of groundwater and surface water.  The 1,770-acre project will also include at least 1,461 acres of permanently preserved habitat, an on-site habitat creation and enhancement area of 212 acres, and about 350 acres of off-site permanently preserved habitat.

North San Diego County has not had a landfill since the closure of the San Marcos Landfill in the late 1990’s.  A local site serving north San Diego County is expected to reduce traffic impacts throughout the County by up to one million vehicle miles each year. In addition to economic savings to consumers through increased competition and lower transportation costs, the project will help reduce traffic congestion and energy consumption.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Dan Walters: Legislature blithely interferes with local decision-making

Dan Walters, Sacramento Bee
June 3, 2011 Page 3A

While state legislators pay lip service to local decision-making, they also claim a divine right to intervene in local conflicts by siding with one faction or the other, even when it means overturning ordinary governmental and legal processes.

Sen. Juan Vargas, who made it back into the Legislature last year by the skin of his teeth, embraces that dubious, time-dishonored practice with measures that would intervene in two local development flaps.

The one-time San Diego assemblyman defeated fellow Democrat Mary Salas by just 22 votes after one of the hardest fought and most expensive legislative primary contests in California history. He then coasted to an easy win in the November election in the heavily Democratic 40th Senate District, which sprawls along the state's southern border, and may run for Congress next year.

Business groups poured money into Vargas' campaign while Salas was favored by labor unions and other elements of the party establishment. And one of her financial supporters was the California Tribal Business Alliance, a coalition of casino-owning Indian tribes.

However, one Vargas bill, Senate Bill 833, takes the side of the Pala Band of Mission Indians, one of those casino-owning tribes, in a bitter fight over a 308-acre landfill disposal site in San Diego County called Gregory Canyon.

Gregory Canyon Ltd. has been working nearly two decades to secure multiple state and local permits – including two successful ballot measure campaigns – and establish the site over the objections of the Pala Band and some environmental groups. In 2000, then-Gov. Gary Davis vetoed a bill to block the project.

The firm was on the cusp of final approval when Vargas stepped in with SB 833, which would block the project and thus give a win to the tribe and other project opponents who had lost in other arenas.

Meanwhile, another Vargas bill, SB 469, inserts the state into a long-running controversy in San Diego over development of "superstores" by Walmart and other big retailers, taking the side of grocery store unions and Walmart's competitors who were losing at the local level. The measure would require such stores to undergo economic-impact analyses, giving opponents more legal ammunition.

A city ordinance once required such analyses but Walmart qualified a ballot measure to challenge the law and the city rescinded it. Now Vargas wants to make it state law – very selectively, because his bill would apply to Walmart but exempt Costco and similar stores.

It should be bothersome that legislators who can't balance the budget or otherwise perform their legitimate duties would blithely interfere with years of exhaustively detailed permitting procedures, as the Gregory Canyon bill would do, or overturn local land-use processes, as the Walmart bill would do.