Judges stand by landfill permit decision

By Kathi Bliss

Editor/POST-REGISTER

 

In an extensive opinion issued by the State Office of Administrative Hearings last week, Administrative Judges Casey A. Bell and Kerri Jo Qualtrough doubled down on their recommendation that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality issue a permit for the landfill project proposed near the intersection of SH 130 and FM1185 in rural Caldwell County.

The opinion comes after the Judges issued their initial Proposal for Decision (PFD) to TCEQ in February. In March, several parties to the Contested Case Hearing issued extensive documentation noting their objections and exceptions to the PFD. In almost every case, the document released last Wednesday shows the Judges standing by their initial recommendations, and suggesting that the Commission should overrule the exceptions.

The Judges did note that some information that was provided in the objections and exceptions of project developer 130 Environmental Park, LLC (Green Group) was not considered in their review. Those facts, the Judges said, referenced facts not entered into evidence during the two-week Contested Case Hearing last August, and therefore should not be considered.

Additionally, the Judges noted that, while they had initially recognized three deficiencies in the original permit application, those deficiencies had either been sufficiently addressed, or corrected, and were not sufficient to keep TCEQ from issuing the permit.

Many of the other points addressed in nearly 400 pages of exceptions and objections, the Judges noted had been “addressed in the PFD, and the analysis will not be repeated here.”

While the battle is far from over, the recommendation of the Judges seems to bring Green Group one step closer to obtaining a permit to build the hotly-contested landfill, which Green Group asserts will be a “state-of-the-art facility,” but which opponents bill as a “17-story tower of trash.”

While some County residents were hesitant for the County to get involved in the protracted legal battle, which is expected to continue for many months yet, the seated Commissioners Court decided in March 2015 to become a party to the Contested Case Hearing; a vocal grassroots opposition organization, Environmental Protection in the Interest of Caldwell County, partnered with the County and other organizations in a Joint Litigation Agreement to share the costs of fighting against the issuance of the permit.

Still, the latest billing records reflect that the County has spent upwards of $101,000 in attorneys fees alone, which only covers work done by the outside firm, Allison, Bass and Magee, through Aug. 31, 2016, well before the decision was issued, or the exceptions and objections were prepared. Records indicating costs for experts and other investment of public funds in the case was not immediately available at press time.

The Post-Register will continue to cover this developing story.

kathibliss@post-register.com

 

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