Saturday, July 14, 2012

Talking trash - Guide to Monday's meeting

As we head towards what may be possibly the best attended public hearing in Pomona in a long time, let's take a look at some of the arguments for and against, and review the possible votes for the project. Unfortunately, I won't be there for the hearing, as I have a work trip to Sacramento that week. So you will have to get your coverage from someone else.

Current view of proposed Pomona Valley Transfer Station from 9th St (Google Street View)

Supporters say that the trash station would generate much needed revenue, would not pollute the water and provide limited localized air pollution, and add dozens of jobs. They call the transfer of trash from smaller to larger vehicles the "carpooling" of trash, and state that some form of trash combination is needed to account for the closure of the Puente Hills Landfill. Their testimony is borne out by the EIR, and the revised Statement of Overriding Considerations, which shows construction impacts to noise and particulate matter, and regional NOx emissions increase beyond the threshold, although the environmental consultant noted that virtually any significant project would exceed the NOx threshold. Apparently, the two residential properties which would have received higher than permitted cancer risks identified in the final EIR will no longer receive those due to the modification that all commercial trucks will be non-diesel powered.

Opponents argue that the project is within one mile of schools, cause dangerous cancer risk to nearby residents, violate air pollution standards, import trash from other areas, and be located in the poorest part of Pomona. Some say there is going to be a perception of Pomona as a "trashopolis". They have now advocated a vote be taken on this measure. The more interesting documents were presented at Planning Commission meetings refuting the City's experts. (As a general note, the applicant did pay for the preparation of the EIR, however the City officially directs the work of the consultants.) Some of the salient ones include comments by Richard Millhorn regarding the accountability of the applicant's operations and Dr. Matthew Mahtuga regarding the uncertainty bounds in the estimates on air pollution impact.

Summary and reading the tea leaves after the jump.

In summary: Unfortunately, a lot of the discussion will hinge on technical experts. The opponents don't have  the experts to refute the City's experts, and what some of the opponents are asking for would lead to absolutely no development on that site, since any development would cause the increase in NOx pollutants over the AQMD standards. The EIR conclusively demolishes arguments about the water wells next to the project, and the amount of traffic to and from would be distributed throughout the road network and not a significant increase to congestion. Millhorn's comments were not specific enough to allege that the EIR calculated something wrong.

 On the other hand, through the filing of lawsuits, the opponents can certainly delay the project further. The Administrative Process Act identified by Tom Hsieh, and the decidedly informal manner the project proponents postponed the meeting, could be cause for concern. However, the opponents are decidedly less funded than the proxy war "Coalition for Environmental Justice" and any legal action may end up petering out quickly if funds run out. (Incidentally, with Valley Vista purchasing rights to the First Street trash station, the City staff has noted that one condition could be the closure of First Street and redirecting trash into the new PVTS.) With a decision not to support the project, the proponents will file suit charging "arbitrary and capricious" decision making, the same as the argument made to hear an appeal - although cities have wide latitude to grant conditional use permits, and make statements of overriding considerations, at their own discretion.

The meeting: July 16, 2012, 6 p.m., Western University Health Education Center. The meeting notice does address my concerns on parking, although arguably 340 seats will not be enough for the public interest for this meeting. Based on the amount of interest I do expect public comment time to be reduced below the norm, and for the Vice Mayor (since the mayor recused himself) to strictly enforce rules on applause. I don't know if the city attorney will force adjournment at a set time, and I do think there is a good chance that the decision itself may be postponed to the next meeting (with no additional public comment taken).

The vote: Four votes out of six are necessary since Rothman recused himself. On the First Street station, the current members who voted for First Street were Rodriguez, Lantz, and Atchley. Following initiation of the proxy war through the creation of the CEJ and the subsequent lawsuit, only Lantz voted to support First Street. Carrizosa was consistently opposed both times it came up. It should be noted that Les Hedges, whose term expired on the Planning Commission and who was one of the key votes to not certify the EIR, was not reappointed by Escobar to the commission. However, Rothman, Soto, Lantz, and Atchley are up for reelection this year. None of the three councilmembers who are standing for reelection are near the project location.

I expect that Carrizosa will maintain her opposition to the trash station, and that Lantz will stay consistent with her comments in 2007 and 2010 on transfer stations in general - although she has maintained a public stance of neutrality. Out of the remaining four, based on public statements on this project and other projects, I would expect at least three of them would vote to approve PVTS.

What follows: Lawsuits - on CEQA, on the use of the Administrative Process Act, environmental justice, etc. could all result if the opponents have enough money or can convince someone to take on the case pro bono. The proponents, certainly, have deep pockets to fight back, and in the unlikely event the project was turned down, would sue.

I would be happy with putting the project on the ballot, if the opponents agreed to not challenge the voter's decision in any forum. However, that would be against the law. If the proponents win, it is unlikely that the decision could be forced to a referendum (from an elections code perspective), although that won't stop the opponents from trying. Certainly they would be able to gather enough signatures to put it on the ballot. Basically we move to the next step of trash station theater.

My series on the Pomona Valley Transfer Station:
Trash station theater
Trash station theater continued
Lawsuit minefield

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1 comment:

Ren said...

Thank's Cal for the info.