The Los Angeles City Council voted Tuesday to hire a private law firm to study the potential legal consequences of extending the life of Lopez Canyon Landfill in Lake View Terrace by five more years.
The council agreed to award a $100,000 contract to the Los Angeles law firm of Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison to examine the dump's compliance with California environmental regulations. The council also will ask the firm to provide an opinion on the Department of Sanitation's review of alternatives to keeping the city-owned landfill open for another five years.
The landfill's operating permit has already been extended once. Originally slated for closure in 1991, it received city approval to remain open until 1996.
In March, the Sanitation Department released results of a study predicting a savings of $72 million for the city if the landfill's operating permit is extended five more years, to 2001. The City Council questioned the findings and hired an independent auditor, which placed the savings at $56 million.
Continuing to send trash to the landfill would be cheaper than hauling it by rail to dumps outside the city, sanitation officials have said, because the dump will have room for about three million more tons of trash once the current permit expires in 1996.
But a second five-year extension has been bitterly opposed by members of the community and City Council members, including Councilman Richard Alarcon, in whose district the dump is located.
In a written statement announcing the hiring of the law firm, Alarcon noted legal concerns about a clause in the landfill's current permit that prohibits further "extensions or authorizations" of the facility past 1996.
Council members John Ferraro and Ruth Galanter introduced the motion. Attorneys from the law firm could not be reached for comment.