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2003 - U.S. Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon introduces the first of several bills intended to block the 78-million-ton Cemex gravel mine in Soledad Canyon [story]


Commentary by Steve Lee
| Monday, Aug 8, 2016

steveleeFor years, big business has been holding public meetings on draft environmental impact reports in the county of Los Angeles. Citizens have shown up and stated their approvals or concerns for these projects. The myth is that the county then takes all of the information and, based on that, either approves the project or gives it thumbs down.

Chiquita Canyon Landfill is no different. Nineteen years ago, the town of Val Verde went through the same process. Conditional use permits were drawn up and promises were made, by both the landfill and by the county, to a town called Val Verde, which is a town that starts at about 800 feet from the border of the trash in the landfill.

Val Verde is the closest of any town in Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich’s district to a landfill. Sunshine Canyon Landfill’s residents start about a mile out, and Lancaster’s nearest residents are about 2 to 2.5 miles away.

As you may know, the landfill reached its 23-million-ton limit in early June, and the conditional use permit says it must close at 23 million tons, no exceptions.

Early last week, residents started emailing the county’s zoning compliance officials to hold the landfill accountable to the conditional use permit. On Aug. 3, the county stepped in and claimed it gave the landfill a “clean hands” waiver basically to break the contract and continue accepting trash as usual.

The county at this point cannot produce evidence of the waiver it supposedly was working on in March. The waiver should be public record and accessible from any laptop. But apparently these important documents are buried in the average $700,000 that the county receives from the landfill on a monthly basis.

The county receives 10 percent of the profits.

hearnoevilThat is partly why Santa Clarita Valley is called the Valley of the Dumps. The county is also the one that holds the landfill to its contract. Kind of hard to hold a landfill to a contract when doing so could cost you money.

That could also be the reason the landfill was never fined when it got caught taking in sludge (which is prohibited). They like to bring that up – that once it was bought to their attention, the landfill stopped taking the sludge it had taken for a year … and it had to pay no fine.

After the press release on Aug. 4, the county and, I am assuming, the landfill went back to the contract to find a loophole. They found one they are clinging to: It would be too dangerous to close the landfill. The hundreds of trucks per day would have to turn around and go somewhere else.

Since 80 percent of the trucks are from outside of the Santa Clarita Valley, they could just not show up. That would take a huge stress off of our Highway 126 and Interstate 5. We would have to pay more for trash here in the valley.

The truth is that there is actually a glut, and landfills are bidding on trash. That is why we get 80 percent from places that have landfills. We are the low bidder. There are low bidders out there to take our trash. But to threaten the residents with higher bills is the standard of big business.

The big question is: Will this deliberate partnership with the landfill to deceive the people affect Kathryn Barger, the frontrunner and Antonovich’s handpicked successor for his county seat? I do know she was present when Val Verde’s representatives and others held a closed-door meeting with Antonovich.

I got this email the other day in regard to all of this:

“Please review this communication from the county today. Reading between the lines, it appears the county has always intended to grant the landfill the expansion, has no intention of enforcing the current permit or the agreement with the community of Val Verde, and the clean hands waiver document does not exist. They have found an ordinance on their books that allows them to let the landfill continue operating without a permit until the permitting process is complete.

“It is evident to me that the county has not been acting in good faith with the residents of Val Verde and has been stringing them along all this time since the CUP application for the landfill expansion began approximately two years ago.

“The community of Val Verde and residents of the surrounding valley must strike while the iron is hot. Now is the time to enforce the agreements. The county is scrambling to cover (its) tracks. We need action now, especially legal action. At the very least, the press needs get more involved, dig deeper and expose the corruption. Please share your thoughts.”

I agree with the sender.

 

Update Monday afternoon, Aug. 8:

I received a copy of the clean hands waiver in my email box today, Aug. 8 … five days after the county said it had one. The county said it could not produce it sooner because the office is closed Thursdays.

Don’t they have a computer system that could bring up such vital documents? Here is the kicker: The decision goes to one person, and he, like the president of the United Sates, can make his decision apparently without notifying anyone besides the county and the landfill. The groups on the original document were left out of the loop. I guess money can buy what it wants.

The sole decision was Richard J. Bruckner’s to make. I still question the entire thing, because when I personally called Oscar Gomez to file my complaint about the tonnage, he asked me to send him an email and he would look into it, since it was a violation of compliance. The conversation and email were sent Aug. 1. Oscar Gomez is the same person we are told to notify on the clean hands waiver.

If a story had to be made up and documents also had to be made up, then seven days should be enough time to create a paper trail.

The landfill never mentioned the clean hands waiver when it realized we knew it was near tonnage. The only response was that they never planned to close, nor did the county plan to close them down. The zoning staff was unaware at the same meeting that the landfill had a clean hands waiver, or they would have brought it up. It seems the only one who knew was Richard Bruckner. It all just sounds too convenient.

 

Steve Lee is an asthmatic resident of Val Verde.

Comment On This Story
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8 Comments

  1. Susie Evans says:

    I found something I wish I could post, it is a picture of Sgt. Schultz from the TV show Hogan’s Hero’s, entitled I see nothing I know nothing. If someone can tell me how to add the pic, I will do it.

  2. Steve says:

    19 years ago we heard the same story. Antonovich not for landfill’s in his region. Yet his region has so many landfills. Where is the no vote 19 years ago. I only see yes votes. The county says one thing and with the money votes another way.
    http://articles.latimes.com/1997-02-26/local/me-32660_1_chiquita-canyon-landfill
    Val Verde still waiting for health survey’s promised years ago.

  3. Sally White says:

    GREAT WRITING, STEVE! This is such an important issue important for ALL citizens of the Santa Clarita Valley!

    Thank you, Steve, for all of your efforts to publicize this issue! The history of the Chiquita Landfill must get out to all in this valley and beyond! The movement to close it for GOOD, and put a stop to any thoughts of expansion MUST GROW EXPONENTIALLY! We must all take heed!

  4. waterwatcher says:

    The County must be held accountable for this. One person should not be able to set aside a key component of the Conditional Use permit without even notifying the community. What is the use of having conditions on permits, if this is the case? And by the way, another condition on this same permit says the community advisory board SHALL be notified. I guess that County doesn’t care to keep any of its promises. Sup. Antonovich, is this your legacy?

  5. C.R. says:

    How do we contact Mr. Bruckner?

  6. Susie Evans says:

    FACTS ARE FACTS, LAWS ARE LAWS…they got caught and they are not suffering any of the consequences. If you break the law, you bet you are going to pay, but you are just a citizen, not a giant company. BTW PG&E was found guilty in the San Bruno explosion. Do we really have to suffer something that horrendous for big companies to be held responsible and accountable?

  7. jim says:

    Bruckner is the Director of the Los Angeles County Regional Planning Department. He formerly held the same position at the City of Pasadena (CA not TX). Lots of stuff with his name on it if you search the web.

    Scholl Cyn Landfill is just a few miles north of the 134 freeway in Glendale. I wonder how much higher the tipping fees are at Scholl compared to Chiquita Cyn? Google Earth tells me that Chiquita is at least 35 miles farther from Pasadena by way of the 210 to 5 fwys.

    Director or not, I somehow doubt that even a County Department head can go against the orders of a County Supervisor. County Directors have no need or legal way to collect campaign funds from “persons”, human or corporate.

  8. Steve says:

    My email to the 5 County Supervisors, Landfill, and Zoning.

    Please make sure that this reply is forwarded to all 5 county supervisors.

    I would like the closing plans emailed to all concerned on this email list. I am worried since we were told by the Landfill representative that there were no closing plans and that the county never had any plans on closing the landfill, or they would have informed them. If that is the case than it does suggest cohersion between the landfill and the county, which imply’s that the expansion was a forgone conclusion for the landfill. I am assuming that since the landfill was so close to tonnage that closing papers are on file and were started in or by the year 2014 and completed when tonnage was reached. I would like this within the next 10 days. If they cannot be supplied because they were never drafted, than please feel free to take the next 60 days to comply and create and send closing plans. This time make sure that the Val Verde Community Advisory Committee and the VAl Verde Civic Association are included in all documents within 5 business days. Another violation of the Conditional Use Permit when they were not included in the supposedly Clean Hands Waiver signed on March 17th, but could not be produced to all involved until Yesterday.

    I would like this request to be included in the administrative record.

    Thank you for you expedient work on this matter.

    Sincerely,

    Steve Lee

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