Marin judge's tentative ruling threatens expansion of Novato landfill
Posted: 12/10/2012 05:36:37 PM PST
In a tentative ruling issued Monday afternoon, Marin Superior Court Judge Lynn Duryee invalidated an environmental impact report that paved the way for a major expansion of Redwood Sanitary Landfill in Novato.
In her tentative ruling, Duryee wrote, "By not including a discussion of the cumulative effect of the project's greenhouse gas emissions, (Marin County) Environmental Health Services failed to proceed in a the manner required by law."
Lawyers representing the county and Redwood Landfill will get an opportunity to argue their case one last time at 9 a.m. Tuesday. Lawyers for the plaintiff in the case, No Wetlands Landfill Expansion, a local environmental organization, will also present their arguments to Judge Duryee.
Brent Newell, one of the attorneys working for No Wetlands Landfill Expansion, said if Judge Duryee were to adopt this ruling as her final ruling, the environmental impact report would be voided and the landfill's expansion permit vacated.
Newell added, however, "It's a tentative decision; it's not a win or a loss yet. This is not over by a long ways."
Osha Meserve, an attorney working for Redwood SanitaryLandfill, declined to comment on the judge's ruling, except to say, "We have requested oral arguments."
In her ruling, Judge Duryee identified several other aspects of the report that she said were deficient. For example, Duryee said the report fails to adequately discuss the possible increased "non-cancer health impacts" from air pollutant emissions. These include acute respiratory infections, chronic bronchitis, pulmonary emphysema and bronchial asthma.
Duryee wrote, "Since this significant air quality impact constitutes a separate risk to public health, the Final Environmental Impact Report should have identified and analyzed it."
Judge Duryee wrote that the report was also inadequate because it failed to analyze the formation and impacts of very fine particulate matter having a diameter of 2.5 microns or less. These tiny particles can easily penetrate into the airways and lungs where they produce harmful effects such as the worsening of heart and lung diseases.
Duryee also said the report improperly deferred formulation "of mitigation measures to reduce the impact to the project from potential flooding," and "mitigation of the impact from groundwater contamination from an improperly designed leachate collection and removal system."
And, Judge Duryee ruled that the environmental impact report failed to adequately describe an off-site alternative to the project.
The landfill's expansion project was opposed by No Wetlands Landfill Expansion and several other environmental groups who warned that Marin taxpayers could get stuck with the bill if toxic leachate stored in the landfill escapes due to flooding or an earthquake. The landfill is surrounded on three sides by the Petaluma River, San Antonio Creek and other wetlands that lead into San Francisco Bay.
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