Environmental Protection

Superior Court Judge Upholds Limits on Solano County Landfill Use

A Superior Court judge in Solano County recently ruled in favor of voter-approved Measure E, which voters passed in 1984. The measure prevents Solano County landfills from accepting more than 95,000 tons per year of waste from outside the county. The ruling requires county officials to uphold voter-mandated limitations on landfill use.

According to a press release from the plaintiffs, the county has not enforced the provisions of Measure E since the early 1990s, when the Board of Supervisors and its County Counsel determined that Measure E was unconstitutional. The Sierra Club, the Sustainability, Parks, Recycling and Wildlife Legal Defense Fund and the Northern California Recycling Association sued the county in response, and Judge Paul Beeman ruled that Solano County must once again follow the Measure E mandate.

Duane Kromm, a former county supervisor and member of the Sierra Club, said: “Solano county voters were very clear that they did not want their county to be a cheap dumping ground for the region’s cities. This victory ensures that communities will be able to exercise their right to manage limited landfill resources moving forward.”

Since the early 1990s, when the county stopped enforcing Measure E’s limitations, up to 85 percent of the total waste disposed of within the county has been trucked in from outside of the county.

The issue of reinstating Measure E arose, in part, from the Potrero Hills Landfill’s proposed expansion into Suisun Marsh adjacent to Suisun City. Potrero Hills brings in as much as 1 million tons of garbage annually into its Suisun City site, with most of the trash coming from beyond Solano County. Potrero Hills contends the expansion was required to handle Solano County’s waste. This need for expansion would have been avoided had the county continued to enforce Measure E over the past decade.

Judge Beeman also ruled that the permit issued in June 2009 for Potrero Hills still stands. The permit would allow for the expansion of the landfill and acceptance of out-of-county garbage at a rate greater than allowed by Measure E. Plaintiffs intend to continue litigation to address the permit issue.

“Rulings like these will send a signal to the waste management industry that it’s time to start taking waste reduction seriously,” says Robert “Perl” Perlmutter of Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger, attorney for the Sierra Club on the case. “The will of the voters comes first when making long-term waste management decisions that will affect land use and water quality into the future.”

Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger LLP is a law firm specializing in government, land use, natural resource and environmental law.

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