Ramsey talkin' trash

Friday, March 5, 2010

A candidate for the Republican nomination to run for governor has asked Gov. Phil Bredesen "to look at" Waste Management's application for expansion of Cedar Ridge Landfill.

"We know how important it is to Maury and Marshal counties - that whole area of the state," Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey explained last weekend in a series of interviews with state senators about the Department of Environment and Conservation.

Nearly 690 people from Pulaski to Nashville, Murfreesboro, Winchester and Madison responded to TDEC Solid Waste Division Mike Apple's call for comment on the expansion after Commissioner Jim Fyke decided in December that he probably wouldn't permit the expansion. Over 97 percent support expansion, including many form letters.

Waste Management wants to cap a sinkhole at Cedar Ridge on the company's property to be able to continue operations for nearly seven years. Without it, the landfill could close this year.

"I talked to him about it," Ramsey said of his message to Bredesen during a recent weekly governor's breakfast when he emphasized, "We don't want to go around any regulations.

"But neither do we want it (the application) to stay on someone's desk waiting on a signature when it's causing massive problems and expense for local governments," Ramsey said at a professional association conference in Murfreesboro on Saturday.

If the landfill closes, county residents may face a $160 annual solid waste fee.

"I carried the message to him that we want him to look at it," Ramsey said.

"I've got one in my area, too," he said.

"It needs to be permitted," Ramsey said of a request from EcoSafe Disposal in Sullivan County near Blountville.

The proposed EcoSafe landfill property includes about 475 acres next to the closed county landfill that covers some 50 acres, according to Meg Lockhart, spokeswoman for TDEC.

Ramsey alleges that "TDEC put up roadblocks" in front of landfill applications, and he describes a permitting process that he sees as having one delay after another.

"They have their pen half an inch of the paper," he said in a recorded interview but then another concern is raised and the document isn't signed.

"They're notorious for having checklists and you do that checklist and then they say, 'Oh yeah, we have another checklist,'" Ramsey said of "hoops" that permit applicants must jump through without knowing when they'd finished the last step.

Lockhart said the EcoSafe "permitting action is active," and she's indicated that the department is reviewing the comments from the public about Cedar Ridge. Fyke has told those correspondents that he has three alternatives: Grant the permit, deny it; or extend the comment period.

Waste Management's area director, Glenn Youngblood has been in the solid waste business for decades and says his name is probably on more landfill permits than any other businessman in the state, "and I've never seen one (landfill application) go on so long."

An average permitting process is two years, he said. "This one has gone on for four years," he said, conceding that Lewisburg's Council consumed some of the time when it decided to examine the criteria for landfill operations.