Letters – Reader questions Host Agreement support logic
To the Editor:
Commissioner Haden posed a question on April 20 to those frustrated citizens who oppose negotiating a landfill “Host Agreement” with the infamous Georgia company, Green Group Holdings.
Acknowledging the risks of a host agreement with a proven bad actor, Haden asked: If the TCEQ permits the landfill and our county has not beforehand entered into
a host agreement with Green Group, how will we have power to make the best of a bad outcome? There are two assertions lurking here: (1) Leverage occurs only before a permit has been granted; (2) Such leverage can be attained by an aggressively negotiated host agreement.
Nice protective sentiment, but neither of these assertions is correct.
Negotiating a host agreement undermines the County’s power because it sends a message to the TCEQ – which has recently been resisting the deceptive and predatory practices of Green Group – that it’s ok to do business as usual, meaning to burden Caldwell with an unnecessary landfill that would exist for imported garbage and against every conceivable aspect of the public interest. The Legislature is now considering a moratorium on these kinds of landfills; successful challenges against Green Group are occurring in Waller and Gonzalez counties; the contested case hearing about the landfill (we’re in this) produced grounds to deny the awarding of a permit and even to stop the building of a landfill should a TCEQ permit inexplicably be granted. It is not proactive for Caldwell commissioners to undermine the widespread resistance to landfill exploitation. It is inexcusably self-defeating.
Host agreements benefit only the landfill company. All enforceable protections against irresponsible landfills exist statutorily through the TCEQ. That our County can craft an exceptional protective agreement is the fiction sold by Green Group to some of our commissioners. As soon as we put a contract between the County and whoever owns the landfill – which will certainly not be Green Group — the County’s position is weakened. For financial reasons, the County will be rendered powerless to sue for unsatisfactory and even dangerously indifferent management. Yes, a contract can state that subsequent owners will be encumbered by the host agreement. However, there are many paths by which future ownership can occur, some of which can position a new owner to contest the County’s right to hold it liable. Can our citizenry fund a decade of litigation just to earn our RIGHT TO SUE the next owner who claims exemption? Host agreements exploit the legal complexities generated by changing business ownership. They are offered in bad faith to protect landfills from liability, rather than to empower citizens to hold landfill owners accountable.
Yes, it’s challenging for new commissioners to get up to speed. Nevertheless, I must respectfully say that Commissioners Haden and Theriot are at present under-informed, inexperienced, and over-matched. No shame finding yourselves in this position. The shame would be failing to take the knowledgeable counsel.