We completely agree with Chris Kelly that U.S. Senator Bob Casey taking a stand and opposing the expansion of the Keystone Sanitary Landfill is a heroic act that deserves our huge thanks and is a refreshing example of representative government. And if you want a recap of the zoning hearing this past Thursday night, Chris nails it.
Times-Tribune, Scranton, PA
Chris Kelly, Kelly’s World
March 22, 2015
In a letter to the state Department of Environmental Protection, the Scranton native showed he is a true Friend of Lackawanna by standing up for his constituents and against the proposed expansion of Keystone Sanitary Landfill in Dunmore and Throop.
“I have been contacted by many constituents,” Mr. Casey wrote to acting DEP secretary John Quigley. “They have expressed significant concerns about the expansion, particularly with respect to environmental concerns, quality of life, health concerns, and congestion of traffic. … I share many of these concerns.”
The letter was typically understated, as were his comments at a Friday press conference. Bob Casey is no bomb thrower. A scribbler who expects him to say anything incendiary doesn’t know the man. I spoke to him by phone shortly before the press conference. About to do something extraordinary, he could have crowed. Instead, he was barely audible.
“Most of the concerns expressed were about the future, about our children,” Mr. Casey said of the 175 letters and emails he received from opponents of the expansion. “They were extremely personal.”
So was Mr. Casey’s decision to oppose the expansion. He is a senator, but also a citizen. A husband and father of four, his family lives in Scranton. He built a good life here and wants his daughters to have the same opportunity. Strip away the trappings of his office, and Mr. Casey is just another parent who doesn’t want to see the future dumped on.
Mr. Casey elected to do an exceedingly rare thing here in Our Stiff Neck of the Woods: Lead by example. The state DEP will ultimately decide whether the expansion is approved, but he felt it was his duty to take a stand. Other lawmakers who have hidden behind the DEP jurisdiction may soon find it harder to smile from the sidelines.
Louis DeNaples is accustomed to dealing with officials who aren’t too bright but know when to play dumb. The Dunmore Zoning Board is his dream team. Thursday night, the board did his bidding at the direction of his attorneys.
Friends of Lackawanna, a nonprofit grassroots group, was prepared to present its case against the expansion at the first of three scheduled hearings. Mr. DeNaples’ attorneys, led by the icy Marc Jonas, convinced zoners to bar the testimony of an expert witness on landfill construction and planning. Among the opposition’s arguments is that the expansion violates the borough’s zoning ordinance, which sets the height limit for structures at 50 feet.
Keystone’s vertical expansion would rise 475 feet above ground level — a clear violation of the zoning ordinance if a vertically expanded landfill is legally defined as a structure. Keystone’s lawyers and Dunmore zoning officer Joe Lorince say no.
Friends of Lackawanna lawyer Jordan Yeager disagrees and presented J. Lawrence Hosmer, a civil/geotechnical engineer with Environmental Resources Management in Annapolis, Maryland. Mr. Hosmer has been in the business for about 43 years, specializes in waste management and has worked on hundreds of landfill projects in several states. He may be too qualified to testify before the Dunmore zoning board.
Mr. Hosmer might have made a case that the landfill’s vertical expansion qualifies as a structure, but he never got the chance. Because Mr. Hosmer had not specifically studied the Keystone landfill or the Dunmore zoning ordinance, Mr. Nolan argued Mr. Hosmer lacked “any knowledge” that would be valuable to the board.
That’s like saying a pilot who hasn’t flown every plane ever made knows nothing about flying. It’s an absurd argument, and would never fly before a judge, which is where this mess is surely headed. The zoners swallowed it whole, of course, effectively grounding the core of the Friends of Lackawanna case and prompting Mr. Yeager to accuse the board of violating his clients’ due process rights.