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Group Says Privatizing Miramar Landfill Brings Environmental Risks

Sierra Club Tells San Diego State Law Requires Environmental Review


The San Diego Chapter of the Sierra Club says a public environmental review is required before any plan to privatize the Miramar Landfill can move forward. The group says expanding the Landfill brings potential environmental risks.

The San Diego Chapter of the Sierra Club says a public environmental review is required before any plan to privatize the Miramar Landfill can move forward. The group says expanding the landfill brings potential environmental risks.

Photo by Katie Orr

Bulldozers push around piles of trash at San Diego's Miramar Landfill.


SC Letter To City On Miramar Landfill

SC Letter To City On Miramar Landfill

This letter is submitted on behalf of the San Diego Sierra Club (hereinafter “SDSC”), in response to the City of San Diego’s issued (July 8, 2010) Request for Qualifications (hereinafter “RFQ”) to privatize the Miramar Landfill (hereinafter the “Landfill” or the “Project”).

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The City of San Diego must comply with a California law requiring public review of environmental consequences before privatizing the city's only public landfill, according to the Sierra Club.

The Sierra Club sent a 10-page letter to the City this week outlining the legal ramifications of moving forward on the plan.

"Turning over the Miramar Landfill to a private operator, as the City proposed in a request for bids issued in July, could cause significant environmental damage and expense," said Pamela Epstein, an attorney with the San Diego Chapter of the Sierra Club.

Epstein said the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA, requires public review of potential impacts before the city takes any action to privatize the landfill.

"They (City of San Diego) should seek CEQA approval if their project may have a significant impact on the environment, which this will," said Epstein.

Epstein said the proposed private operation of the landfill includes changes such as increased traffic and reduction of greenery recycling.

"Increased use of the landfill and other operational changes may increase greenhouse gas emissions and cause leakage of toxic fluid into the San Clemente stream and eventually Mission Bay, among other problems," said Epstein.

The city has proposed privatizing the Miramar Landfill to help reduce San Diego's structural budget deficit.

Epstein said San Diego must complete the CEQA process before taking any more steps to privatize the Landfill.

Epstein said there are categorical exceptions under CEQA, including an existing facilities exemption.

"This project would not qualify for such an exemption because the city's request for proposals (RFP) calls for further development of the Miramar Landfill, including a transfer station," said Epstein. "It's a fine point of law, but when we would come out ahead on point of law were the city to claim such an exemption."

Epstein cited a case from 2005 that required the City of Stockton to conduct an environmental impact review when that city privatized its water system.

"The Superior Court ruled in 2005 that an environmental impact review was required because 'common sense dictates that methods of operation will differ between the government and private sector based on the profit motive,'" said Epstein.

She did not rule out legal action if the city does not comply.

“We are well aware of all the state and federal environmental regulations. We intend to comply with all of them,” said Alex Roth, spokesman for San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders.

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