Eagle Mountain Garbage Dump Suffers Major Defeat

Date:   September 22, 2005
Contact:   Howard Gross, NPCA, 760-366-3035, 760-219-4916 (cell)
Deborah Sivas, Stanford Law School Environmental Law Clinic, 650-723-0325

Eagle Mountain Garbage Dump Suffers Major Defeat

JOSHUA TREE, CA - The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) today applauds U.S. District Judge Robert J. Timlin’s ruling Wednesday to overturn the federal land exchange needed for the proposed Eagle Mountain garbage dump to move forward. NPCA joins with other plaintiffs against the dump, including Donna and Larry Charpied, Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice, Desert Protection Society, as well as park advocates nationwide, in celebrating this major victory for Joshua Tree National Park.

“This dump was ill-conceived from the beginning; it’s ludicrous to haul trash 200-miles out into the desert and dump it in the arms of one of America’s iconic parks,” said Howard Gross, NPCA’s California Desert program manager. “We are cautiously ecstatic about what the judge’s ruling could mean for the long-term protection of Joshua Tree from this threat.”

The proposed Eagle Mountain Landfill would be the world’s largest garbage dump, surrounded on three sides by Joshua Tree National Park. If built, railroad cars and trucks would deliver 20,000 tons of garbage each day to the site for 117 years. Eagle Mountain would severely impact the surrounding desert ecosystem by inflating the population of predators and scavengers, and would introduce light, air, and noise pollution. Joshua Tree National Park supports myriad unique wildlife, including the federally protected desert tortoise.

With his decision, Judge Timlin found that the land exchange approved by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM)—required for Kaiser Ventures and Mine Reclamation Corporation’s project to move forward—failed to properly consider the public land’s potential value and was an “abuse of discretion.” The BLM valued the 3,942-acres of public land being traded at $79-$104 per acre. Kaiser, in turn, secured an agreement to sell the dumpsite to the Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County for $41 million.

In addition, the court found that BLM had not fully considered whether the land exchange is in the public interest, as required by law, and did not properly articulate the factors it considered in reaching its determination. According to the judge’s ruling, the project’s Environmental Impact Statement also failed to adequately demonstrate the purpose and need for the project, or to analyze a reasonable range of alternatives. The ruling states that the analysis inadequately addressed the impact the dump would have on bighorn sheep and the desert ecosystem.

“The court got the law absolutely right,” said Deborah Sivas, director of the Stanford Law School Environmental Law Clinic (formerly the Earthjustice Environmental Law Clinic at Stanford), who represented NPCA in the court case. “As the judge found, BLM failed to properly consider the broader public interest in moving forward with the land exchange and the agency’s articulation of the purpose and need for the project was too narrow. We believe the court properly held our federal land managers to a high standard of integrity before they are allowed, quite literally, to give away America’s public lands.”

Since the final sale of the landfill is contingent upon the successful resolution of legal challenges against the dump, park advocates are hopeful that the judge’s decision will inspire Los Angeles County to pursue other options.

“Los Angeles County’s waste disposal needs can be met for many decades by using the Mesquite Landfill and increasing recycling rates to levels that other counties are achieving,” said Gross. “They don’t need this landfill, they need to abandon this disastrous project.”


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