Front page story in the Scranton Times this morning: Mid Valley wants no piece of landfill pie
Excerpts: Published: December 5, 2014
But district directors agree that money from the Keystone Sanitary Landfill is no cure for their financial ills.
“At the bottom line, I personally don’t want to be looking out my window and seeing something of that nature,” school director Mary Ruth Tanner said. “All the money in the world can’t buy health.”
Last month, the Mid Valley board unanimously agreed to oppose a proposed expansion plan at Keystone, which sits less than a mile away from the district.
Part of their unity stems from the fact that Eddy Creek originates near the landfill and passes through district property. An accident upstream could potentially deliver toxins to the district’s doorstep via the stream they hope to use one day for science classes, Mr. Macknosky said.
School director Donna Dixon said considering Mid Valley’s annual operating budget climbs to around $22 million, “$100,000 to me is a drop in the bucket. That’s my opinion,” she said.
“This is not about us trying to get money,” he said. “No amount of money would offset the risks to the kids.”
School director Joanne Pesota likened running the district to running a business.
“We were all in agreement that this would be detrimental to the health and wellbeing of the students, the faculty and staff of Mid Valley, and we just feel it would not be a cost that we’re not willing (to pay),” Ms. Pesota said. “We’re just making good business decisions that are ethical.”
Keystone landfill hikes Scranton’s disposal charge to offset higher host fees landfill pays - Headline from today’s Scranton Times.
Excerpts: Published: December 4, 2014
Keystone Sanitary Landfill in Dunmore told Scranton its trash disposal tipping fee will go up 80 cents per ton starting Jan. 1, because of “increased host fees” the landfill will be paying.
An 80-cent spike will cost Scranton around an extra $20,000 next year to dispose of garbage at Keystone, said Scranton Business Administrator David Bulzoni.
“This increase is a result of increased host fees that Keystone will be required to pay,” states the letter from Keystone’s Business Manager Dan O’Brien.
The letter was mailed four days after Dunmore Borough Council on Nov. 24 approved a pact with Keystone landfill that will nearly triple the host municipality fee the landfill pays to Dunmore. That pact, a $15.63 million agreement, could turn into a $191.7 million agreement over nearly 50 years if the state approves a large scale expansion the landfill wants.
Published: November 26, 2014
Friends, we have something to give thanks for this Thanksgiving regarding this important issue: U.S. Senator Bob Casey has asked the EPA to consider reviewing whether the Keystone Sanitary Landfill complied with clean water laws. Thank you, Senator Casey!
Silence is consent.
Excerpts: Published: November 26, 2014
Out on the stump, when they’re trying to impress voters, local politicians never suggest that their love of Northeast Pennsylvania, or their willingness to go the last mile to promote and protect it, is limited by the narrow scope of their offices.
But when a massive garbage dump with politically influential owners wants the state government to approve an expansion that will bring more than 100 million more tons of out-of-state garbage to one of the most visible and heavily traveled areas of Lackawanna County, most of those politicians head to their bunkers rather than mount the bully pulpit.
Vision, not just compliance, is the issue
This issue isn’t about mere landfill operations. It’s about a vision for the future. It’s stunning that no one in the local legislative delegation other than Rep. Mike Carroll, of Avoca, recognizes that the perpetual expansion of gigantic garbage dumps, no matter how well they comply with regulations, is not in the area’s interest.
Scranton Times, Brendan Gibbons, November 26, 2014
Today the Times-Tribune reports that the Dunmore host municipality agreement is the worst in the County. We believe it extends far further than that—maybe even the Country. Dunmore Council did NOT have to rush to pass this agreement.
That conflict might explain why, despite firm public pressure to fight for a better deal, Dunmore council approved the most unfavorable landfill host agreement in Lackawanna County. The only worse agreement was the borough’s old version from 1999.
Council members and attorney Bill Jones have said landfill owner Louis DeNaples significantly limited the terms of the agreement and wouldn’t allow outside experts to negotiate on the borough’s behalf.
Some members of the public addressed this Monday night.
“I just ask you whether you’re in a position, these seven people up here, to sign an agreement with no environmental guidance,” Dunmore resident and Friends of Lackawanna core member Pat Clark said before the vote.
The public didn’t have much time to review the agreement. Dunmore officials posted the newest version about three days before the vote, resident Jack McGrath said at the meeting.
“Somebody’s putting pressure on this council, and they’re not here tonight,” he said.
Short term economic gain traded for long term economic loss. No environmental protection. No protection from liability for catastrophic disaster (landfill fire, landslide, subsidence, leaking). An agreement rushed for absolutely no reason at all despite the pleas of their constituents to take the time to demand a better agreement and despite offers from citizens who practice law to help them craft it pro bono. This was democracy at its worst and the effect of power, money and influence at its best. Dunmore Council, with the brave exception of Tim Burke, has signed their names to a shameful agreement. This travesty is their tragic legacy. They should apologize to all of your children…and their children…and their children…ad infinitum for bootstrapping them with an irresponsible, pathetic agreement that never ends. That is, if any of our children choose to stay in Dunmore or the area, which is doubtful if this expansion happens. What a tax base we would have then!
Friends, we must fight harder now more than ever. Please continue to write the DEP and your legislators to let them know where we stand and that we demand they represent us. Please write letters to the editor and support Friends of Lackawanna. We will not let this deter our efforts to get DEP to deny Phase 3. Let’s let this inspire us to action! Enough! Dunmore Council’s disregard for the People was as disgusting as the landfill itself. Enough! How long will we allow power, money and influence to infect our democracy and corrupt our system? Enough! We must let DEP know that there are no benefits that can outweigh the harms of radioactive fracking waste to our health, safety and welfare or the degradation to the image of our community when it is known for a mountain of trash. Enough! It is time to stand up and be counted or sit it out and be dumped on forever!
What an amazing, poignant, and thought-provoking piece by Pat Clark. These are the issues that we care about and the questions that need to be answered. Well done, Pat!
Keystone Sanitary Landfill’s proposed expansion is all about the green —
whether cash or the environment.
Those two sides are often diametrically opposed. Industrialists often paint environmentalists as
anti-job-creation tree-huggers. Environmentalists like to cast industrialists as scorched-earth
But in the case of a landfill seeking to become the tallest structure in our area and expand its lifespan by another two generations, the issue is the same — protecting our environment protects our economy.
The issue is about cementing Northeast Pennsylvania’s reputation as the East Coast dumping ground or reversing it. It’s about protecting our health or rolling the dice to see how a 475-foot-high pile of garbage and fracking waste might impact our children’s lives. It’s about seizing control of our future or continuing the cycle of short-term gain at the expense of long-term viability.
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection will approve of deny the expansion. While the notion of protection is found within the agency’s name, the framework by which it will evaluate Keystone’s expansion may not support its mission.
A key section of an expansion application is known as the benefits and harms analysis. Here, the applicant lists all the benefits an expansion would provide and harms that it could cause. The DEP balances the two and the applicant must demonstrate clearly that the benefits of the project clearly outweigh the known and potential harms.
Reading though the application exposes the cracks in the foundation of the evaluation process and raises serious questions:
■ Why are the benefits — payroll, equipment purchases, host municipality agreements — monetarily quantified while the value every single harm remains undetermined? Why aren’t the potential costs of an environmental disaster calculated — or even mentioned?
■ Why so long? DEP typically grants permits for 10 years. This application seeks up to 46.5 years. With something this sensitive, shouldn’t we encourage conservatism at every opportunity we can?
■ Do property values matter? Keystone states that “it is unlikely that continued operation …will result in any depreciation of the market purchase value of homes in the vicinity ...” However, studies show that landfills that accept more than 500 tons of waste per day decrease adjacent residential property values by an average of 13.7 percent.
If this expansion is approved, the state will receive more than $500 million in increased fees from Keystone over the expansion time frame. Can the DEP, a state entity, fairly evaluate this application when Pennsylvania stands to receive more than $6 for each ton of garbage Keystone receives?
By law, a landfill must pay a host municipality a minimum amount for each ton of garbage accepted. Since 1988, the state-mandated minimum fee has not changed. And since 1988, Keystone has not paid Dunmore any more than that minimum.
However, at times of expansion, landfills seek to show the DEP they are friendly neighbors. So, Keystone has been negotiating with Dunmore for the first time in more than 25 years. It recently offered a contract with no end date and after the expansion, increases its payments to Dunmore by the princely sum of one penny, per ton, per year.
Any 50-year contract is questionable on its face. A 50-year contract with virtually no increases in fees is absurd. In fact, in current dollars, Dunmore would receive less during the last year of the proposed agreement than it receives today.
Unfortunately, Dunmore is left to consider whatever take-it-or-leave-it offer the landfill makes.
Each year, the Environmental Protection Agency produces a report on waste generation, recycling and disposal. These reports show that the amount of garbage each person produces is decreasing. Recycling is increasing. If there’s less overall garbage produced, why the need for additional landfill space? We already have a second landfill in Lackawanna County that reportedly has over three decades of space remaining.
An expansion would allow Keystone to continue to take in even more out-of-state garbage. It would also allow Keystone to take in more fracking waste containing radioactive elements. The former will expand our reputation as the Northeast’s dumping ground. The latter could have a disastrous effect on our environment.
Tying our area’s reputation to garbage for another half-century is unwise policy, both economically and environmentally. Our area deserves better. We need to stop sabotaging ourselves by doubling down on antiquated and harmful industry. We have already done our part.
Enough is enough.
Another great article on the front page of the Scranton Times. Please let your lawmakers know where we stand and that we want them to support our opposition to the landfill expansion in order to protect the health, safety and welfare of our region!
Members of the Mid Valley School Board do not support the Keystone Sanitary Landfill Inc.’s application to expand skyward. Way to go, Mid Valley! We agree with you whole-heartedly.
“We’re charged with the protection of children,” Mr. Macknosky said. “It’s our responsibility to make them safe.”