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Landfill bills carried over to 2021

Two pieces of legislation concerning the creation and operation of mega landfills in Virginia will not be considered this session and have been carried over to the 2021 General Assembly session.

Although the bills did not advance this year, opponents of the proposed Green Ridge Recycling and Disposal Facility in Cumberland County view the continuation of the bills into next year as a win.

Senate Bill 409, introduced by Senator Ghazala Hashmi of District 10, requires that the director of the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) analyze and determine what impacts to local water, soil and air quality are expected from the construction and operation of a landfill expected to accept 3,500 or more tons of municipal solid waste per day. It would also impose additional requirements to the facility and its operation to protect the environment.

Green Ridge officials anticipate the facility to accept between 3,500 and 5,000 tons of waste per day.

House Bill 1038, introduced by Delegate Sam Rasoul of District 11, prohibits the Virginia Waste Management Board from issuing a permit for a new solid waste facility or any amendment to a permit allowing for the expansion of a facility or increase in capacity, where such permit or amendment would likely result in the creation of a landfill to exceed a capacity of 35 million tons.

The bill requires that the director of DEQ determine that benefits of such a mega landfill outweigh any negative human health and safety or environmental effects caused by such a site before issuing a permit or amendment,.

Both Hashmi’s and Rasoul’s bills have been continued to the 2021 session. Hashmi’s legislation will be heard next year by the Senate committee for Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources. Rasoul’s bill will be heard by the House committee for Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources.

Hashmi said that committee members were concerned that her bill’s language would broadly impact the entire state due to its moratorium on mega landfills. She hopes to continue to work this year to find new ways to address environmental concerns regarding Green Ridge and to protect the Pine Grove School, a historical Rosenwald school located near the proposed mega landfill.

Rasoul said he learned about Green Ridge in 2019 when a group of concerned citizens brought the topic to his attention.

“Through further discussion, I learned this mega landfill would bring trash from out-of-state users, making a Virginia dumping ground for other states,” he said.

Cumberland County Landfill Alert (CCLA), a group of citizens against the establishment of Green Ridge, has continually asked its members to contact their legislators in support of bills regulating mega landfills.

CCLA representative Betty Myers said Monday, Feb. 10, the group views the carrying over of the bills into 2021 as a win, and that the group is much further in their fight this year than last year.

The group anticipates a visit from Hashmi at their March 8 meeting, and hopes to continue working with Hashmi and Rasoul to re-file their respective bills in 2021.

“Our take on life at this point is, it’s not a done deal until the first piece of trash is put in the landfill,” Myers said.

Jay Smith, spokesman for Green Ridge Recycling and Disposal Facility, said that the company watches all legislation pertaining to landfills or solid waste disposal facilities carefully. He had no comment on bills that were carried over to next year.