By Wendy Sommer, Executive Director, Alameda County Waste Management Authority (AKA StopWaste)
I was surprised to see the “Showcase” article in your December eNews about a lawsuit that names our organization. It certainly makes sense for NCRA members to discuss and debate critical issues, but a suggested call to consider joining the lawsuit from the editor seems out of place when NCRA’s Board has not taken a position on it. Dialogue is important, but it does requires more than one voice, so we now feel the need to weigh in on the article and clarify/correct some of the statements made.
The lawsuit pertains to the Organics Recovery Project, which is a part of the Davis Street Transfer Station Master Plan. Much of the project is necessary for Waste Management to comply with requirements set forth in their franchise with the City of Oakland, ensuring that Oakland material placed in landfill does not contain organics. The project is not designed, nor is it adequately scaled, to replace Oakland’s universal and mandatory source separation services. Unlike the existing structure at the transfer station that is only partially enclosed, the new state-of-the-art facility will be fully enclosed with rapid roll-down doors, negative air pressure and biofilters.
The City of San Leandro as the lead agency under CEQA adopted an Initial Study/Negative Declaration and approved the project in 2011, without receiving any objections. The Alameda County Waste Management Authority’s (ACWMA) discrete role as a responsible agency under CEQA was to amend the Countywide Integrated Waste Management Plan to include the project location and description. ACWMA required Waste Management to comply with all conditions imposed by the City of San Leandro and other regulatory agencies, including the Local Enforcement Agency and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. ACWMA reviewed the facts and followed the process as required by law. We do not have control over the project’s design, nor influence over city franchise agreement requirements.
The lawsuit alleges that the ACWMA did not comply with CEQA because it did not perform or require additional environmental review. Petitioners Boone and Stein refused to understand that CEQA requires additional environmental review ONLY IF 1. A project will have new and significant adverse environmental impact, AND 2. Those impacts result from new information, changed circumstances, or substantial changes to the project that occurred after completion of the prior environmental review. ACWMA staff independently evaluated Waste Management’s proposal, requested additional documentation and clarification, and concluded that there is no evidence showing that there will be new significant impacts requiring additional environmental review. There are no substantial changes to the project, no new information, and no changed circumstances since San Leandro’s 2011 approval.
The next steps on this issue will be played out in court. For those who are interested, all the documents filed with the court, including ACWMA’s detailed response to the plaintiffs’ brief are available at the Alameda County Superior Court website: https://publicrecords.alameda.courts.ca.gov/PRS/Case/SearchByCaseNumber. The Case Number is RG17858423. We feel that the lawsuit is unnecessary, and a waste of time and resources to defend, so we hope it is resolved soon.