Citizens Against the Landfill in Hempstead
For almost 4 years, Citizens Against the Landfill in Hempstead (CALH) has been fighting to prevent the Pintail Landfill proposed for a location on a 723 acre property called the Rainey Ranch, just north of 290 on Hwy 6, a mile north of Hempstead, Texas.
With the knowledge that this location was the worst possible site for a landfill, CALH has hired first-class experts in the legal and engineering fields to help stop Pintail in various courts of law. The City of Hempstead/CALH v Waller County/Pintail trial verdict in our favor in December 2014, along with the settlement agreement on February 20, 2015, were an important victory for CALH and its supporters. Still to be fought are the Appeal in the transfer station lawsuit against the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and the Contested Case Hearing before the State Office of Administrative Hearings, scheduled for August 2015.
Please browse our website for articles on these important legal matters, information and updates on events, past and future, and various news items from TV, radio and newspapers. We also have a section on donations and fundraising which lists many ways that you can help.
Our greatest resource and asset are the people of Waller County and other concerned citizens who have been willing to donate their time, knowledge and resources. We hope you will join CALH and work with us to stop this landfill development and return a bright future to our beautiful Waller County.
Recent CALH News
- Houston Chronicle – Details of lucrative land deal for controversial Hempstead dump revealed
- CALH Public Meeting – May 19, 2015
- Dolcefino Consulting Press Release as of May 1, 2015
- SOAH Order No. 15 – Ruling on Pending Motions – May 4, 2015
- WCCC Enters Into CIA with Hempstead & CALH
- More than a Garage Sale – May 15 & 16th
- WE STAND UNITED 3 – July 25, 2015
- We Take the Landfill Fight to Austin
- Petition for Intervention filed with the State Office of Administrative Hearings
Houston Chronicle - Details of lucrative land deal for controversial Hempstead dump revealed
Article as posted in the Houston Chronicle by Jayme Fraser
After reading a copy of the lucrative deal for land near Hempstead for the first time, Waller County residents learned how much money Pintail Landfill could lose if they are successful at stopping the company's controversial proposal to build a dump.
Residents of the rural town about an hour northwest of Houston have fought the construction of a landfill near U.S. 290 and Texas Highway 6 since they first learned of the project in 2011. They fear the dump would sink property values and contaminate drinking water for the Houston region because of its proposed location just a few feet above an aquifer. Pintail Landfill denies any harmful environmental impacts, noting the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality issued a draft permit for the project in 2012.
In a 2011 option contract, Pintail Landfill paid Marengo Family Properties for the right to buy its 250-acre property near Hempstead at a future date.
The document released online by state officials this month hints at the scale of profits for Pintail - and Marengo - should the project move forward. The release also confirms Pintail was cutting deals in the county months before its proposal was made public and weeks after phone records show the company was talking with then-County Judge Glen Beckendorff.
After both supporters and opponents have spent millions of dollars and years in the court, the fate of the project will be decided at a contested case hearing in November, where state administrative law judges will issue a final verdict on the state environmental permit.
The only party guaranteed to walk away from the yearslong fight with a profit is Marengo Family Properties.
"It's a very lucrative deal for the landowners," said Mike McCall, who lives across the road and serves as director of the nonprofit Citizens Against the Landfill in Hempstead. "It puts them in the trash business like the landfill company is in the trash business."
The contract shows that Pintail has, to date, paid $280,000 in monthly fees and $1 million in contract incentives to the family trust, whose operator is listed as Corpus Christi urologist Dr. David Donald. If Pintail, a subsidiary of Georgia-based Green Group Holdings, bought the site for up to $9 million, the company also agreed to pay Marengo Family Properties 20 cents a ton for trash processed there, which could add up to as much as $155,000 a year, according to expected volumes listed in the permit application.
Houston real estate attorney Pat Sharky described Marengo Family Properties as a "sophisticated seller," highlighting its ability to negotiate for a stake in the company offering to buy their property.
Sharky, who negotiates similar agreements for his clients, said the fees - currently $10,000 a month - are at the lower end of the range for option contracts.
"We have people paying two to three times that much," he said.
Without these contracts, Sharky said it would be difficult for developers to secure property as project proposals go through the lengthy permitting process. As is the case in Waller County, local opposition and lawsuits can cost the developer even more money before the land is even bought.
The property contract with Marengo Family Properties was part of an 80-page packet submitted to state judges to decide which portions could be made public. Because the envelope was not marked as confidential, the documents were mistakenly uploaded to the State Office of Administrative Hearing's public website without redactions, said Spokesman Tom Walston.
To opponents, the timing of the contract - before the landfill became public but after Beckendorff was talking to Pintail officials by phone - further affirms their contention that county leaders unscrupulously hid details of the project. And in a county where the median household income is $50,000 and one-in-five families live below the poverty line, the dollar figures listed in the deal appear sizable.
Donald did not return requests for comment. County records show his family bought the land in 2005.
Leaders of the citizens' group say Donald initially bought the property as part of a land swap, which lets sellers avoid paying capital taxes, and had been listed for sale multiple times over the years.
Attack on two fronts
Opponents have attacked the landfill proposed for the site on two fronts: arguing commissioners illegally colluded with the developers and asking the state to reverse its initial determination that the landfill will provide adequate environmental protections.
The first matter seemed to be resolved in December when a civil jury ruled that Waller officials had broken state public records and open meetings laws. Beckendorff and commissioners who were ousted in elections have notified the civil court of their intent to appeal the case even though new county leadership already has signed and paid a settlement.
Any chance of halting the project lies with the fight to have the state reverse its draft permit on the grounds that the environmental impacts were not thoroughly explored.
"It is located on very sandy soils that serve as a recharge zone for the Gulf Coast aquifer system," said attorney Mike Woodward, who is the citizen group's lead attorney fighting the state permit. "It makes no sense to any of us why you would want to put a landfill on top of a community's drinking water."