New application for Waller County landfill denied

Emily Foxhall | Reporter, Houston Chronicle

A state commission has denied a new application to build a landfill in Waller County, saying ordinances adopted by the county and the city of Hempstead now prohibit a garbage dump in the area.

A highly charged debate over proposals to build a landfill rising as high as 151 feet above ground has been going on for about five years.
The Georgia-based Green Group Holdings, LLC, has pursued the project, while a local advocacy group, Citizens Against the Landfill in Hempstead, and current local elected officials oppose it.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality last year rejected an original application filed by Green Group, citing an alleged failure of the company to account for how high the water level might get in the area of the proposed Pintail Landfill. The commission returned an appeal of that rejection in the spring, saying it came too late.

The company, meanwhile, went ahead and bought the 723-acre property in June and filed a new application. It reiterated its commitment to meeting required standards and stated a belief that it should be grandfathered in under old laws — before the local ordinances had been adopted to prohibit a landfill at the site, which is north of the city of Hempstead off Texas 6.

But, in a letter dated Thursday, Earl Lott, waste permits director for TCEQ, wrote that the ordinances prevented the agency from granting the new application. For any questions, Lott directed the company to contact its staff attorney.

“We are evaluating all options in light of the recent decision,” said David Green, president of Green Group, in a written statement.

The Waller County judge and the citizens group praised the decision, but expected more to come from the company.

“If there’s a question as to the validity of an ordinance, it’s up to a court to determine that issue, not an executive agency, so I think it was a good policy decision,” County Judge Trey Duhon said. “Regardless, this is still one of the worst locations geologically to put a landfill.”

Citizens Against the Landfill in Hempstead concurred, writing in a news release, “This latest development does not necessarily mean that the fight is over.”

The group planned to host a garage-sale fundraiser this weekend. Duhon credited their ongoing efforts as “amazing,”

Added Duhon: “My hope is at the end of the day that Pintail would realize this is not the right location and that they would look elsewhere.”

A previous commissioners court in 2013 cleared the way for the landfill’s construction on a 250-acre site. A jury later found the commissioners guilty of violating transparency laws in their decision. Duhon and other landfill opponents won a majority on the commissioners court in 2014, and a lawsuit brought against the county by the city of Hempstead and Citizens Against the Landfill in Hempstead was later settled.

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