Longer halt to landfill?

Published 8:36 pm Thursday, April 5, 2012

Even as the fate of a proposed Conecuh landfill remains tied up in court, the state Legislature could make a move that would keep the controversial facility at bay even longer.

State Rep. Alan Baker, R-Brewton, has filed a bill that would extend a statewide moratorium on large landfills — such as the proposed Conecuh Woods property — by another year.

Last year, lawmakers passed a two-year moratorium to give the state departments of health and environmental management time to review Alabama’s solid waste management plan and the approvals process for such landfills.

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The Alabama Department of Environmental Management is working on the study of the solid waste plan, but Baker said it could take another year to finish.

“That would put us in the middle of next year’s (legislative) session,” Baker said. “That doesn’t give us a lot of time to digest the information.”

Baker said if he had known the study would have taken so long, he would have asked for a three-year moratorium in the original bill.

In the meantime, lawyers are continuing the fight in court.

The Town of Repton — just a few miles from the proposed landfill site — filed a lawsuit last spring to fight the landfill, just days after the Conecuh County Commission voted 3-2 to approve an application for the landfill.

After several months of legal wrangling, defendants Conecuh Woods — the developers — and the Conecuh County Commission filed an appeal to have the case tossed out by the state Supreme Court.

The justices, however, sent the case back to circuit court in December. An out-of-town judge — brought in after local judges recused themselves — had already ordered that depositions and discovery of evidence begin in the case.

It has been about six years since word of the proposed 5,100-acre landfill spread in the community; a grassroots group, Citizens for a Clean Southwest Alabama, quickly formed to oppose it.

Those opposed contend the landfill would drive down property values and be a health hazard — not only in the immediate area but downriver in Brewton and other cities — while developers have said the landfill would bring needed funds and new industry to Conecuh County.

The Escambia County Commission and the cities of Brewton and Atmore have joined the lawsuit against the landfill.