LA Abandons Quest for 20,000-ton-per-day Eagle Mountain Landfill

Date: May 22, 2013

Source: Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County

The Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County has abandoned its 13-year quest to develop a mammoth rail-served landfill at Eagle Mountain, about 100 miles to the east, near the Joshua Tree National Park. The site is currently owned by Ontario-based Mine Reclamation Corp. (MRC). The 4,654-acre landfill would have taken up to 20,000 tons of waste per day brought by rail from communities in Los Angeles County. The fate of the site, which was formerly an iron mine owned by Kaiser Steel, has been disputed and litigated since the early 90s. Kaiser Steel declared bankruptcy in 1987. Its successor company, Kaiser Ventures, now owns a majority interest in MRC.

The Sanitation Districts decision to abandon the scheme seems to be the direct result of unsuccessful resolution of ongoing federal litigation which prevented the transfer of entitlements and requisite permits. They also attribute it to other factors including changes in the solid waste market and the challenging solid waste management goals facing Los Angeles County cities.

Riverside County and many Coachella Valley officials originally supported the Eagle Mountain landfill, saying it would bring jobs and economic growth. Environmental advocates such as Donna Charpied of Desert Center saw it as a threat to Joshua Tree National Park, as well as wildlife and groundwater in the surrounding area. Charpied and her husband, owners of a nearby farm, filed one of the first legal challenges to the landfill in 1992. They were eventually joined by the National Parks Conservation Association which pursued the case through state and federal courts for 20 years, challenging the validity of environmental impact reports on the landfill and a land swap between Mine Reclamation and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management that was a critical part of the project. The U.S. 9th District Court of Appeals invalidated the land swap in 2009, and the U.S. Supreme Court turned down Mine Reclamation's appeal of the lower court's decision in 2011.

May 22, 2013

Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County Cease Negotiations for Eagle Mountain Landfill Project and Look to Expand Evaluation of Long Term Waste Management Strategies

In 2000, the Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County (Sanitation Districts) entered into a Purchase and Sale Agreement with Mine Reclamation Corporation (MRC), a subsidiary of Kaiser Ventures, for the Eagle Mountain Landfill Project located in Riverside County. The purchase would provide long term disposal capacity to be accessed by rail. The Agreement was contingent upon successful resolution of ongoing federal litigation and the transfer of entitlements and requisite permits.

The Sanitation Districts have worked cooperatively with MRC to achieve the terms of the Agreement, while mutually extending escrow. In fall 2011, MRC notified the Sanitation Districts that they were no longer willing to extend escrow. The Sanitation Districts' Board directed staff to close escrow and hold MRC to its obligations under the Agreement. MRC immediately filed for bankruptcy.

The Sanitation Districts and MRC have been in negotiations since that time regarding the property and project. On Wednesday, May 22nd, the Sanitation Districts' Board determined that the Sanitation Districts will cease negotiations with MRC and directed staff to undertake an ongoing evaluation of long term waste management strategies. This determination was based on many factors, including changes in the solid waste market and the challenging solid waste management goals that are facing Los Angeles County cities.

"This step was taken only after very careful consideration about what will best serve the public in the long term and what is in the best interests of the agency," stated Grace Robinson Chan, Chief Engineer and General Manager.

The Sanitation Districts are a regional agency consisting of 23 independent special districts serving over 5.4 million people in 78 cities and unincorporated territory within Los Angeles County. The Sanitation Districts protect public health and the environment through innovative and cost-effective wastewater and solid waste management, and in doing so convert waste into resources such as recycled water, energy, and recycled materials.

For more information, contact:
Robert Ferrante 562-908-4288, x1503
David Rothbart 562-908-4288, x2412

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