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Cam Noltemeyer: Plambeck belongs on the MRF committee

Environmentally Speaking

Posted: June 10, 2009 3:44 p.m.
Updated: June 11, 2009 4:55 a.m.
Plambeck belongs on the MRF committee

Establishing a committee to recommend sites for a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF), doesn't seem like a controversial issue, but it has certainly turned out that way.

MRF is a fancy name for the place that the city of Santa Clarita will take recycled materials to sort them.

Burbank, as well as Beverly Hills, already have such facilities operating in existing industrial areas of their cities.

The businesses around them have accepted this new "green" business as a good neighbor.

Our city's proposals are a little different.

Their plans include a "transfer station" - or "dump" as the outraged neighbors of the last proposed site called it - that could take 3,000 tons per day of trash brought or hauled away by as many as 500 trucks and tractor-trailers each day.

A transfer station is not a MRF, but a little-noticed city code change earlier this year ominously redefined the definition of a MRF to include it.

A transfer station would also generate "tipping fees" for the city, giving it a financial interest in having a location within the city limits.

Could such a little-advertised change in city codes signal the city's intention to not be entirely open with the community?
Council members also stated that the MRF had to be sited in the city.

But a careful reading of the codes doesn't indicate such a requirement, and the agreement with the trash hauler is silent on that issue.

Loud opposition arose at the April City Council meeting. Several groups, including the county of Los Angeles, the Castaic Town Council and the West Ranch Town Council stated they did not want to be a part of this committee.

Now the city has refused to seat Lynne Plambeck as the Sierra Club's representative in spite of her 24-year membership in that organization and her position as a state and local board member.

The reason, according to a letter written to the Sierra Club, apparently had to do with the fact that Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment had filed public-interest litigation over the approval of the Gates Industrial project.

The city tried to claim that Plambeck had filed this suit herself.

Now, it is true that SCOPE, a 22-year-old organization with a board of directors, hundreds of members and a large interest list of local residents, filed a public-interest suit over the Gates project.

The issues? Whether chopping down 1,400 oaks complied with the city's oak ordinance, if razing a primary ridgeline conflicted with the hillside ordinance and if there would be an adequate water supply.

But Plambeck didn't file that suit, SCOPE did. Besides, a MRF had not yet even been proposed then.

According to the city, this site is no longer even being considered, so why is this a conflict?

The Sierra Club also filed suit against the city for the Riverpark project over what it felt was a less than adequate water supply and building in the floodplain.

The Sierra Club opposes the Gates Industrial project, too.

The Val Verde Civic Association, another committee member, sued the county years ago over the Chiquita Canyon Landfill.

Among Plambeck's accolades, two stand out. One is the award she received from our city for her work to oppose Elsmere Landfill in the canyon just across the freeway from the Gates Industrial project.

It reads: "In Recognition of Your Unyielding Dedication to Preserve the Quality of Life in Santa Clarita."

She also received a Sierra Club national conservation award for her work to preserve the Santa Clara River.

Plambeck's knowledge of landfill and recycling issues could certainly not be the reason she was snubbed.

Her many years of activism in this area as the chairwoman of Landfill Alternatives Save Environmental Resources (LASER) ensures a broad knowledge of countywide landfill and recycling issues.

Is this perhaps the reason for the city's rejection of her Sierra Club nomination?

It is better not to have anyone that is too knowledgeable about the issues on a committee that is created to just be a rubber stamp or produce a directed decision, as such committees sometimes are.

Could that be why the county and town councils also did not want to participate?

Too bad the Sierra Club is not allowed to choose its own representative, but rather must pick a person that is approved by city staff.
Don't let this "tempest in a teapot" will stop you from attending Thursday night's hearing at Rio Pico School on the 21,000-unit Newhall Ranch development.

We hope the city will be there also, to represent the community's concerns.

Cam Noltemeyer is a Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment (SCOPE) board member and a Santa Clarita resident. Her column reflects her own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. "Environmentally Speaking" appears Thursdays in The Signal and rotates among local environmentalists.


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