Moratorium bill for landfills adds ‘protective layer’

Published 10:10 am Monday, May 9, 2011

The Alabama Legislature has passed a two-year moratorium on new landfills — and the language of the bill includes landfills, such as Conecuh Woods, that have not yet been approved by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management.

Bill sponsor Rep. Alan Baker, R-Brewton, said the measure allows for a two-year time period to look at the permitting process for new landfills, specifically those that would have a capacity greater than 1,500 tons per day and be located on 500 acres or more.

“This adds a protective layer for citizens,” he said.

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Last month, Conecuh County commissioners approved, in a 3-2 vote, the application for the landfill — to be located on 5,100 acres near Repton with 1,600 acres of disposal cells.

In their application, Conecuh Woods developers said the landfill would accept waste from every state east of the Mississippi and Louisiana, with a capacity reaching 10,000 tons per day at peak. The landfill would start with a capacity of 300 to 500 tons per day, with an initial development area of 250 acres.

Baker said supporters of the landfill — including Conecuh County Commission Chairman Wendell Byrd and a lobbyist working for developer Conecuh Woods — had asked him to seek a delay of the Senate vote. Byrd voted to approve Conecuh Woods’ application.

Developers and supporters of the landfill have said that it would bring jobs and money — mainly in the form of host fees — to Conecuh County.

The landfill project has been opposed by a grassroots group, Citizens for a Clean Southwest Alabama, as well as commissioners and city councils in adjoining counties. Opponents say the landfill would be harmful to the environment as well as to property values.

The Town of Repton has filed a lawsuit against the Conecuh County Commission and Conecuh Woods, seeking a revocation of the commission’s 3-2 vote for the project.

Gov. Robert Bentley has said he will sign the landfill moratorium bill, Baker said.

Bentley earlier this year signed an executive order that also calls for a two-year ban on landfills, but it is unclear how it would have affected Conecuh Woods, which had already submitted its application to the county at the time of the order.

Baker said the bill’s passage was a “team effort.” State Sen. Marc Keahey, D-Grove Hill, who also represents Brewton, voted in favor of the moratorium.