Less than 20 percent of the trash that goes into Chiquita is generated in the Santa Clarita Valley.
If Chiquita only took SCV trash, the landfill in its current configuration probably would have lasted our entire lifetime, and our children’s lifetime.
Nineteen years ago, the last time Chiquita wanted to expand, our community went through hell.
I remember. I was there.
Not just Val Verde, whose residents are the most directly impacted. The entire Santa Clarita Valley, since it meant dozens of trash trucks from all over the Southland would exacerbate our traffic problems and foul our air.
So the landfill owner at the time (Laidlaw) and the landfill property owner at the time (Newhall Land) – said fine. You stop fighting us, Val Verde, and we’ll shut ‘er down when the landfill hits 23 million tons or in November 2019, whichever is earlier. You can read the agreement [here].
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors said fine – we’ll issue a permit to the landfill on the condition it shuts down when it hits 23 million tons or in November 2019, whichever is earlier.
After 1997-98, when the supervisors put their seal on those “conditions of approval,” Laidlaw sold the business and Newhall Land sold the property.
They ain’t dumb.
The new owner is bound by those same conditions. It has to close and cover the landfill at 23 million tons or November 2019, whichever is earlier.
It’s like when you buy a house. If the city or county didn’t allow the previous homeowner to turn your house into a bordello, then you can’t turn it into a bordello, either. The change in ownership doesn’t change the conditions, and you knew that when you bought your house.
To be clear, I don’t have a particular opinion about the current landfill owner. It’s doing exactly what large corporations often do (Chiquita’s current owner trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol WCN) – they throw money around to local charities with one hand while using the other hand to pressure politicians into changing the rules.
And I’ve got no beef with the landfill’s local PR guy who says the new owner “never promised” to close at 23 million tons or in November 2019. It’s his job to say stuff like that, and he’s pretty good at his job.
Of course the new landfill owner “never promised.” It didn’t have to.
It’s the government that made the promise, via the conditions of approval. The new owner inherited those conditions when it bought the landfill. It doesn’t have to like them. But it knew about them, and it is stuck with them.
Now, the county will tell you that another condition of approval explicitly allowed the landfill owner, whoever that might be, to come back at a future date and request another expansion beyond the 23 million tons. And that’s true. It’s in there. They only recently started talking about it. It was never mentioned before the current landfill operator applied for the latest expansion. For the better part of 19 years, the community – Val Verde and the rest of the Santa Clarita Valley – were led to believe – by the county and the various landfill and property owners – that it would shut down when it hit 23 million tons or November 2019, whichever is earlier.
Think about it. (Loudly:) The landfill must shut down at 23 million tons or November 2019 … but (sotto voce:) It doesn’t really have to. Shh. Don’t tell anybody.
The landfill hit 23 million tons about a month ago. Shut ‘er down.
It’s time for the rest of L.A., Orange and Ventura counties to take care of their own trash and quit dumping on us.
As for our own comparatively small amount of trash, there are enough brains in this town to figure it out. Load it onto trains and ship it to the Palmdale Landfill. Whatever. Find somebody who wants it. Believe you me, there are other landfill operators who want it.
Point is, a promise is a promise, a deal is a deal, and conditions of approval – especially the ones you trumpet to the community – are sacrosanct if there is integrity in government.
Leon Worden is the volunteer president and CEO of SCVTV, a 501c3 nonprofit media company. His commentary reflects his own views and no one else’s – at least not intentionally.
Letter From Chiquita Canyon Newsroom | News, Opinion | September 8, 2016 Friends, It has …