SANTA CLARITA — A controversial plan to expand Sunshine Canyon Landfill was approved for the second time Wednesday by the Los Angeles County Regional Planning Commission.
The landfill, located in the Santa Susana Mountains above Granada Hills, has been a battleground pitting Los Angeles city and county officials against each other as well as environmentalists versus Browning-Ferris Industries Inc., one of the nation's largest waste-management concerns.
The proposal calls for a 17-million-ton expansion, the first phase of a 10-year-plan to expand the county's waste-disposal capacity. The company filed an application in June, 1984, to allow a 70-million-ton expansion, a plan approved in a scaled-back form by the commission in February, 1991. The plan was later successfully challenged in court by environmentalists and the city of Los Angeles.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is expected to consider the commission approval in late September, said Richard Frazier, a commission staff member.
"I told them I don't want to hear another landfill project. This is it," said Patricia Russell, vice chairman of the commission. Russell, who will serve as chairman next year, said she will encourage alternative high-technology waste-disposal solutions. "It gives us breathing room to pursue alternative waste disposal procedures," she said.
Browning-Ferris Industries Inc., the second-largest waste-management company in the country, described the commission vote as the first step toward expanding the 215-acre landfill.
"It's a step that we think is an important one," said Arnie Berghoff, the company's regional director of government and community affairs. "It's a needed and environmentally sound project," he added.
Local environmental groups, who join Los Angeles city officials in opposition to the project, have vowed to bring further legal challenges if the Board of Supervisors approves the plan, said Mary Edwards, a spokeswoman for the North Valley Coalition of Concerned Citizens, which opposes the plan.
Meanwhile, the city will continue to pursue its legal challenge to the adequacy of the environmental reviews of the project, said Keith Pritsker, who is handling the case for the city attorney's office.
Superior Court Judge Ronald M. Sohigian in March ordered public hearings on such key issues as BFI's past operations records, inadequacies in the original environmental review process, and the company's decision to prohibit the city from using the landfill.
The proposed expansion will take place on the county side of the landfill, which straddles the border between the city and county. Since city officials took a stand against the project two years ago, BFI has refused to allow the city to dump its waste at the site. It has been closed for two years pending the outcome of the court actions and subsequent public hearings.
Santa Clarita city officials are closely watching developments in the project because final approval of the project could stymie efforts to open Elsmere Canyon as a landfill site.
"This will give us a bit of a reprieve because they can't claim that we are suffering from a massive landfill crisis and have garbage piling up in the streets," said Jill Klajic, a Santa Clarita City Council member who also is a member of a regional environmental group.