FAIRFIELD — Supporters of Measure E will give it one more try in court to make the now-defunct law apply to the planned Potrero Hills Landfill expansion, an effort they hope could kill the project.
The Sierra Club announced Wednesday it has appealed a California Courts of Appeal ruling to the state Supreme Court. Now it will wait to see if the state’s highest court will agree to hear the case.
County voters passed Measure E in 1984 to limit garbage importation to the county to 95,000 tons annually. The county decided the law was unconstitutional and stopped enforcing it in the early 1990s. In 2005 and again in 2009, the county approved the expansion of Potrero Hills Landfill a few miles south of Suisun City.
Landfill expansion opponents went to court. Solano County Superior Court Judge Paul Beeman ruled in 2010 that Measure E is constitutional. Limiting the amount of waste coming to the county from other counties would eliminate the need to expand the landfill, opponents said.
But the state in 2012 passed a law sponsored by Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco, that makes such garbage importation initiatives illegal. Measure E was dead again. Expansion opponents argued the county’s approval of the landfill expansion should still be voided because Measure E was in effect when the county issued the permit, but in vain.
The state appeals court a few weeks ago ruled the new state law banning such initiatives made the matter moot. But the Sierra Club thinks otherwise, arguing that Potrero Hills Landfill would face different circumstances today if it had to start from the beginning to get its permit for the expansion.
“In our view, they’re retroactively saying it was OK for the county to issue the permit, which it shouldn’t have done in the first place,” Duane Kromm of the Sierra Club said Wednesday.
Jim Dunbar of Potrero Hills Landfill on Wednesday said that the state Supreme Court hears only a small percentage of cases proposed to it and he doubts it will hear this one.
“The ruling from the appeals court seems so solid, we’re surprised they would even try to continue an argument the court seems to have closed the books on,” Dunbar said.
Everyone deserves their day in court, Dunbar said. But, he said, the opponents have had their day in court and then some. He said that the group Sustainability, Parks, Recycling & Wildlife Legal Defense Fund has also appealed the case to the Supreme Court.
It’s possible the Supreme Court could decide to reinstate Measure E, Kromm said. But that’s not the thrust of the Sierra Club’s argument.
“It’s conceivable,” Kromm said. “I think that’s a longer shot.”
Landfill expansion proponents say that the state promotes having regional landfills to avoid having smaller landfills that can leak and have other problems. Larger landfills, in this view, allow for more environmental safeguards because of economies of scale.
Opponents say the nearby wetlands of Suisun Marsh make Potrero Hills the wrong place to expand a landfill. Suisun Marsh is the largest contiguous estuarine wetlands in the United States. They also say that cheap landfill space discourages recycling.
Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.