Fresno Bee Newsroom Blog

Kettleman landfill comment deadline extended again

The state still is poised to issue a permit allowing expansion of the hazardous waste landfill near Kettleman City — a holding pattern that started in August.  But the official process has been extended again.

You might remember the state Department of Toxic Substances Control extended its public comment deadline from Sept. 4 to Oct. 11. on the landfill expansion plan. Last week, leaders extended it again to Oct. 25.

The latest extension came after two members of the environmental community requested it. The two are Ingrid Brostrom of The Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment and Bradley Angel of Greenaction, state leaders said.

Environmental justice advocates have fought desperately to stop this expansion, especially since the flow of hazardous waste has dwindled to a trickle. The landfill is nearly at capacity.

But Kettleman City stands to gain from the expansion of the landfill, say its supporters, including Kings County leaders.

The expansion will result in the landfill owner, Waste Management Inc., paying off a large debt owed by the town’s water system, so a new water treatment system can be built. Kettleman’s water is tainted by arsenic.

Kettleman Hills hazardous waste landfill near Interstate 5.

At the same time, there are good reasons for the state to cautiously approach this expansion. The Kettleman Hills landfill has long been painted as a villain — the West’s largest hazardous waste landfill at the doorstep of a small, Latino community.

Among some in Kettleman City, along Interstate 5 in Kings County, the landfill is a raw nerve. They blame a toxic environment for a rash of tragic birth defects a few years ago.

Plus, the state considers Kettleman City among the environmentally riskiest places to live in California.

Now an additional voice of opposition to expansion is coming from the Legislature. Last week, Assembly Member Luis Alejo, D-Salinas, sent a letter to the Toxics Substance Control agency, asking leaders to reject the expansion plan.

He said, “The people who live in Kettleman City have suffered enough and done their share since the disposal site was opened in 1975.”

New organization will advocate for Valley rural towns

Community worker Veronica Garibay and lawyer Phoebe Seaton — known for the Community Equity Initiative at California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc. — have launched a new organization to continue helping rural California.

The nonprofit Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability will focus on land-use planning, resources and government organization.  Garibay and Seaton say there is a need to directly organize, influence policy and legally protect low-income, rural communities from environmental degradation and inequality.

Said Seaton: “Local decisionmakers have historically and systematically failed to invest in low income communities on the one hand, while over-burdening those same communities with industrial, toxic and hazardous facilities.”

Leadership Counsel will collaborate with CRLA, a non-profit legal advocacy group that has long promoted the interests of migrant laborers and the rural poor.