CITIZENS STILL AGAINST THE LANDFILL IN HEMPSTEAD – THE STORY IN BRIEF

Ironically, while doing volunteer community service picking up trash in the area in June 2011, a local citizen inadvertently learned that a 723 acre property known as the Rainey Ranch, along Hwy 6 near Hwy 290 in Hempstead, was going to be turned into a municipal solid waste landfill. It was also understood that local County government officials had been working in secret with Green Group Holdings, a Georgia-based company, on the Pintail Landfill project. Soon after, the Citizens Against the Landfill in Hempstead (CALH) was formed by a large group of citizens who clearly realized that this location over the Gulf Coast Aquifer recharge zone, and so near to the City of Hempstead, was the wrong site for such a hazardous facility.

After more than a year of controversy, the actual filing of a permit application, and the questionable stalling by locally elected Waller County officials, a march by thousands of concerned citizens on Waller County Courthouse on February 12, 2013, still did not persuade these then-current elected officials that this 250 acre landfill was clearly detrimental to the northern part of Waller County. That evening, among the many hundreds of citizens giving landfill-opposing public comments, City of Hempstead Mayor, Michael Wolfe, made a promise to take the issue on behalf of his City all the way to the Texas Supreme Court if necessary. Despite vocal opposition by their citizens, those Waller County officials voted in favor of Pintail Landfill, sealing the deal by choosing to amend the landfill ordinance and sign Pintail’s host agreement. The City of Hempstead sued the County and CALH joined with the City in that suit. In December 2014, a Waller County court found that there were 13 counts of violations of the Open Meetings Act, the Public Information Act, and record retention requirements, and the original landfill siting ordinance was re-instated and the host agreement invalidated. Those elected officials who sided with Pintail either lost their re-election bids or decided not to run for re-election. Their April 2015 appeal of the case was found baseless by the 1st Court of Appeals.

Proof of the unsuitability of the site and confirmation of what locals had been telling the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) for years came on July 17, 2015, when a site visit by CALH representatives, as requested by CALH and ordered by the court, showed groundwater spewing from one of the piezometers designed to measure the water table elevations at the site. This discovery led to the TCEQ rejection and return of Pintail’s first MSW application for non-compliance with state regulations, a fact that Pintail had to readily admit.

In June 2016, Pintail/Green Group Holdings purchased the property which they had previously only held under an Option to Buy Agreement. Their second application, filed in July 2016, was returned by TCEQ in December 2016 based on the applicability of ordinances now in place in the City of Hempstead and Waller County.

Pintail then filed suit against the TCEQ, questioning their right to reject this second application.  CALH joined TCEQ as Intervenor in the matter and the case, Pintail Landfill LLC vs TCEQ/CALH, was heard on February 22, 2018, in Travis County District Court.  Within 24 hours of hearing the case, the Honorable Judge Karin Crump issued a Final Judgment, affirming the TCEQ’s rejection of Pintail’s second application.  This outcome marks yet another victory for CALH and its battle to stop the Pintail Landfill project.  However, the ruling was appealable and Pintail did in fact appeal this Final Judgment on March 16, 2018.  Thus, TCEQ/CALH are preparing to see Pintail in Travis County’s 3rd Court of Appeals in Austin, Texas, at some future date.

Seven years, 2 MSW landfill applications submitted and rejected, 4 TCEQ Public Meetings, 2 trials, 1 Contested Case Hearing, hundreds of hours of depositions, $2 million dollars raised and spent on legal fees, 43 garage sales, 4 dinner/auction fundraisers, and support by Rep. Cecil Bell and Senator Lois Kolkhorst leading to 2 Legislative Bills written and testified to should all equal an end to the Pintail Landfill at this location, one would think, and a return of Waller County’s beleaguered citizens to their peaceful lives.

Regardless of Pintail’s decisions moving forward and with so many positives in our favor, including a highly supportive community and a just case, CALH remains steadfast and prepared to continue the fight until the Pintail Landfill project is defeated once and for all!

 

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Latest News

JUDGE DENIES APPLICATION FOR LANDFILL IN WALLER COUNTY

By Brooke A. Lewis  | Houston Chronicle Reporter | February 27, 2018

A yearslong battle over the construction of a landfill in Hempstead has come to an end for now after a judge ruled in Austin on Friday that Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s decision to return the landfill’s application should be affirmed, according to court records.

Texas Commission on Environmental Quality
had already rejected Pintail Landfill’s second application to build, but the company wanted that decision overturned. The trial took place on Thursday in Travis County’s 250th Civil District Court, where Judge Karin Crump the next day issued her ruling.

“It’s another court victory. It’s been a very long fight,” said Waller County Judge Trey Duhon. “From the beginning we were very clear, that this was absolutely one of the worst spots that you can possibly locate a landfill.”

The landfill, which would be built north of Hempstead off Texas 6 in Waller County, has been opposed for years by community members because they felt it would negatively affect their water supply and economic future. A local group, Citizens Against the Landfill in Hempstead,
has actively worked against the construction of the landfill, raising more than $2 million for the cause through community garage sales and other fundraisers.

Green Group Holdings LLC, based in Georgia, has continued to fight against the community’s opposition by buying the more than 700-acre property in 2016. TCEQ denied the second application to build the landfill in Waller County in December 2016, stating ordinances adopted by the county and the city of Hempstead now prohibit a garbage dump in the area. “The Pintail Landfill company, they probably could’ve walked away from this before they sank too much money into it. Instead, they doubled down,” said Duhon. “They now own that property and I’m sure they’ve put a lot money into this. That doesn’t change anything.”

However, the fight over the landfill, which has been brewing since 2011, could continue. The two-page judgment issued by Crump on Friday is appealable. “We are disappointed by the judge’s order, and as we evaluate the outcome, we are still pursuing multiple courses of action,” stated David Green, president of Green Group Holdings, in an email.The leaders of Citizens Against the Landfill said they will continue fighting against the landfill if the company decides to appeal the judge’s decision.

“We’re prepared for that to happen if necessary,” said Mike McCall, the group’s treasurer. “We are very unified in fighting this and looking for it to go longer.”

CALH PRESS RELEASE

February 27, 2018

On Thursday, February 22, 2018, at 2pm the Pintail Landfill LLC vs TCEQ/CALH trial took place in Travis County’s 250th Civil District Court, in Austin, Texas.  This trial was an attempt by Pintail Landfill to have the TCEQ’s rejection of their second MSW Application overturned.  Attorneys from all three sides took approximately 2 hours in total to present their arguments, after which presiding Judge, The Honorable Karin Crump, thanked all present and advised that she would make her ruling as soon as possible.  Judge Crump’s Final Judgment came just 24 hours later, ruling in favor of TCEQ and Citizens Against the Landfill in Hempstead.  Judge Crump’s judgment states in part:

“After considering the pleadings, briefs, administrative record, and arguments of counsel, the Court finds that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s decision to return Plaintiff Pintail Landfill LLC’s Municipal Solid Waste Application No. 2391 should be affirmed.”

In the two-page Judgment found at following link, it should be noted that Judge Crump also states that her ruling is ‘final and appealable’ which means that Pintail’s next possible recourse could be to appeal this ruling in the Austin Court of Appeals.

CALH leaders and attorneys were very pleased with this swift outcome which represents “yet another battle won, taking us one step closer to winning the war” to stop the ill-sited Pintail Landfill project.

Pintail Landfill LLC vs TCEQ/CALH Final Judgment February 23, 2018

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