Dear Orange County Commissioners,
Thank you for your recent decision to reconsider the siting of the waste transfer station (WTS) in the vicinity of the Rogers Road community. We particularly welcome your comments that social and environmental justice must be a consideration and that a fair and open search should be conducted. Given the public outcry over the previous decision, it is important that the new search be perceived as fair by the citizens of Orange County.
We believe the recommendations regarding WTS siting made by the National Environmental Justice Advisory Committee (NEJAC), a Federal Advisory Committee to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, offer the best way to ensure a fair search. Those recommendations are documented in A Regulatory Strategy for Siting and Operating Waste Transfer Stations, EPA Report Number 500-R-00-001, and we have attached two pages from that report for your consideration.
Two points are of particular importance.
1. The meaningful and continuous participation of community residents, particularly those already burdened by the clustering of solid-waste facilities.
The NEJAC recommendations call for the establishment of an advisory panel to propose site-selection criteria and to consult with the BoCC throughout the search process. The advisory panel should contain adequate representation (or several representatives) from the Rogers Road community.
2. The explicit inclusion of environmental justice as a factor in the selection process.
The NEJAC recommends that the search criteria include a provision against a disproportionate impact on a community and that final site selection be based on an affirmative demonstration that it will not result in a disproportionate impact. We endorse this explicit recognition of environmental justice.
We look forward to working with the BoCC to ensure that the goals are achieved. We plan to have representatives at the November 15 BoCC meeting, and we ask that we have an opportunity to speak briefly about the upcoming search process.
Thank you again for your leadership in reconsidering the siting decision and in bringing environmental justice forward as an explicit goal in the WTS siting. Your recognition of the importance of this principle has established a precedent that can be applied across all parts of Orange County government. We are proud to be a part of county whose leaders promote and whose citizens support such progressive principles.
Robert Campbell and Neloa Jones
Co-Chairs of the Rogers-Eubanks Coalition
“A Regulatory Strategy for Siting and Operating Waste Transfer Stations”
To solve the problem of WTS siting, total capacity needs within a municipality or waste shed must be addressed comprehensively. Selection of appropriate WTS sites must be based on an area-wide examination of environmental and community impacts, rather than on an individual site basis. The guiding principles for an area-wide selection process should be:
• There is a public need for WTSs.
• The burden of fulfilling the need for WTSs must be borne fairly and equally and not fall
disproportionately on any community.
• The siting of WTSs must be done through a systematic plan that considers the waste shed as a whole.
An example of the steps to follow in implementing an area-wide selection process is shown in Exhibit 1.
Figure 1 Exhibit 1: Steps in Implementing an Area-wide Facility Selection Process
(download letter for attachments Coalition Letter to Orange County Commissioners)
IV. Community Participation
Participants in the Working Group’s fact-finding sessions consistently expressed a desire for increased levels of community participation in the WTS siting process. Prior to the formation of the Working Group , the Waste and Facility Siting Subcommittee heard similar complaints about the lack of community participation from communities across the country. All described the clustering of negative land-use facilities resulting from the absence of participation. For example, WTSs are being permitted or having their permits amended with minimum public notice and no real opportunities for the public to comment on the permit applications. This occurs with other types of waste processing facilities as well—such as recycling facilities and interim handling and storage facilities. As a result, the clustering of negative land-use facilities already experienced by poor communities and communities of color is compounded.
There are several examples where community participation is lacking in the WTS siting process. For example, when issuing permits for WTSs, local permitting agencies typically fail to consult with potentially impacted neighborhoods regarding the environmental impact of proposed WTSs. The permitting process ignores potential impacts such as economic displacement, loss of jobs, cumulative impacts, clustering, and traffic problems in decisions on whether to conduct an environmental impact analysis. Permitting agencies also fail to examine the potential for clustering or to conduct disproportionate impact analyses under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.
Local permitting agencies also fail to consult with potentially impacted neighborhoods when
developing and amending solid waste management plans. As a result, these plans fail to examine disproportionate impacts, clustering, and potential conflicts with community land-use planning.
Local planning agencies and building departments fail to provide any public notice or public comment on siting WTSs based on the justification that a WTS facility is permitted “as a matter of right” (See Section IIa). Furthermore, they fail to consult with communities when developing land-use plans (e.g., waterfront plans) to identify equitable allocation of uses, assess disproportionate impacts on communities, identify conflicts with community plans, etc. WTS operators fail to address community complaints or develop community complaint-and-response mechanisms.
Addressing the systematic failure to involve communities in WTS decisions ultimately will require changing the local decision-making process, which is not part of the Working Group’s recommendations below. However the recommendations call for specific and extensive community involvement in area-wide facility selection, development of Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA, sections 6942 and 6947) solid waste management plans, sustainable transition strategies, development of a best management practices manual, and enforcement.
The Working Group makes the following three recommendations to EPA to foster increased community participation. In recommendation IV-1, the Working Group recommends that EPA have state and local decision makers consult the “NEJAC Public Participation Model” to ensure that these recommendations are implemented with effective and informed community participation.
IV. Recommendations: Community Participation
IV-1: Suggest that state and local decision makers consult the following documents to help improve community outreach and participation:
• “General Process of Community Outreach—NEJAC’s Public Participation Model”
• “EPA Land Use Based Remedy Selection Guidance Document, NEJAC’s Brownfield
Dialogues Report,” which provides a process for community consultation to identify community uses and plans and potential environmental justice circumstances.
IV-2: Require that state and local decision makers involve the community in regulatory reviews of RCRA solid waste management plans, area-wide and regional WTS facility selection processes; development of a sustainable transition strategy; and development of best management practices.
IV-3: Provide technical resources and federal funding, such as providing assistance to community groups to ensure effective public participation in area-wide and regional WTS facility selection processes and development of sustainable transition strategies.