Note: I filed a FOIA request for the electronic version of the complete transcripts of the public hearing on the proposed landfill expansion. Renee Cipriano, attorney for the DeKalb County Board, informed me that my request would be fulfilled and I will make those transcripts publicly available ASAP.
Below is my closing argument. I did not stay 100% to script but its pretty close. I think it gives a fair representation to the opposition to the siting application.
DeKalb County Pollution Facility Committee:
I begin by thanking the good people who are gathered here today. That includes the members of the County Board and those on the Pollution Facility Committee; the County Board’s attorney; the court reporters; the staff and counsel of Waste Management of Illinois (WMI) and the many concerned citizens who have engaged this process. I am grateful to the hearing officer who has shown respect and patience to the level of consummate professional.
I cannot duly express my concerns surrounding this siting application. I will begin and end with the students, parents, teachers, staff and taxpayers that made Cortland Elementary School necessary and possible.
Thanks to this hearing we now know that dangerous gases are being emitted from the landfill. Sure, those of us who drive by the landfill have seen the eternal torches burning the methane gas. In Mr. Nikodem’s testimony he acknowledged that deadly methane explosions have occurred on properties adjacent to landfills although none on any projects he was associated with. Methane is not just a nuisance gas, as Mr. Hoekstra testified. Methane gas from landfills can and has led to death, injury and property damage.
And an elementary school is within ½ mile of this landfill.
Mr. Hoekstra testified that the landfill does not have an odor problem. There is no odor problem because he said so. Many neighboring residents in attendance disagreed as a nervous laughter filled the room.
In fact, Mr. Hoekstra told us about an incident with H2S that occurred in 2008-2009. WMI chose not to notify the public at the time. I guess they didn’t want to make a mountain out of a molehill. But I question such a dangerous policy decision.
I do have to wonder if School District 428 officials would have chosen another site for their new $15 million grade school had the discussion of H2S been at the public forefront, especially with the now known dangers for students and staff less than ½ mile away.
On the bases of the toxic gases and the proximity of Cortland Elementary School alone Criterion 2 has not been met. There is clearly a life-safety issue with this siting application.
This application fails Criterion 2 if thoughtful consideration of the potential risks of straddling the Union Ditch and what that could mean to the headwaters region of the East Branch of the South Branch of the Kishwaukee River is given. I urge the County Board to think green-as-in-the-environment on this one.
Criterion 6 — traffic impact — has not been met. A traffic study that does not account for agricultural traffic has no merit in DeKalb County Illinois, home of the flying ear of corn. WMI’s traffic expert also told us an evolving story on how WMI’s designated traffic routes would be enforced. Police will write tickets for “Failure to Use WMI’s Route?” Come on. Cops in 17 northern Illinois counties are going to help enforce rules?
Does anyone believe any of this? This was included in Dave Miller’s testimony.
Then how can anyone believe that the siting application addresses the impact that truck traffic from 17 counties will have on our roads? Who will assume any or all of the fiscal impact of road maintenance and upgrading?
What we have here is a Criterion 6 Fail. Plain and simple.
It was Criterion 1 that convinced me to engage in this process. Criterion 1 is all about need. Oh, is the need for the rewards of the Host Agreement great for the County Board as there are many projects to fund – from Courthouses to Jails; the DCEDC; the Forest Preserves, and irony of ironies, the County’s Go Green initiative.
My concern is that this siting application process includes a set of judges who have vested interests, regardless of motivation, to agree with the applicant.
Clearly there is a need for WMI to get this landfill expansion approved. That is easy to establish. Why else would WMI agree to pay the County $120 million in tipping fees over the next 30 years? Why else would they agree to pay the Town of Cortland a million bucks and a plethora of little something somethings in return for Cortland’s guarantee to not object to the siting application or to assist anyone else who might object. Why else would members of the County Board be given a private tour of another impressive Waste Management facility. Why else would every one of WMI’s expert witnesses testify that every single siting application recommendation they have ever made supports whoever paid them to testify?
This process enables the selling of police powers and we as American citizens must never allow that. Let me give you an example of selling police powers: If this County Board fails to protect the students and staff at Cortland Elementary School in exchange for a tipping fee then they have sold their police powers.
The need in Criterion 1 is to be based on the service area of the landfill. The Appellate Courts have ruled that County Board members are not prohibited from considering their legislative responsibilities in the siting application process.
Members of the Pollution Facility Committee (PFC) and County Board: Do not ignore your legislative boundaries and responsibilities in sum, that being DeKalb County, by expanding the service area to meet profit targets set by the corporate board of WMI.
Criterion 1 fails.
I plead with the members of the Pollution Facility Committee (PFC) and the County Board to see to it that a great injustice not be served upon our most humble and precious citizens, our children. Consider their need for protection greater than the corporate needs of those who possess money and influence. Your constituents, as do the future generations, rely upon the impartiality, fairness, and integrity of this elected County Board in the matter of this landfill expansion application.
The criterion has not been met. The risks are ever present now and for perhaps hundreds of years in the future.
I ask the PFC and the County Board to reject this proposal.