Los Angeles County supervisors on Thursday postponed a decision on the proposed expansion of the Sunshine Canyon dump, concluding they need more information about the controversial project.
Browning-Ferris Industries had asked the supervisors to ignore a recommendation by the county’s Regional Planning Commission to dramatically cut back the landfill’s capacity. In September, the Planning Commission unanimously recommended that Browning-Ferris be allowed to expand the capacity by 17 million tons, rather than the 70 million requested by the company. The commission recommended that approval of expansion beyond that be based on how well the company operates the troubled dump.
About 100 opponents of the expansion attended the four-hour hearing. The movement’s leaders told the board they would be willing to support a 10 million-ton addition if that would save a pristine oak forest that would be buried in garbage under the company’s proposal.
“In the worst-case scenario we have proposed a configuration that would not take out the trees,” said Sue Vila of the North Valley Coalition. “It is the last possible effort to save the forest.”
Browning-Ferris representatives, however, called the homeowners’ plan an engineering and economic impossibility. To avoid cutting thousands of trees, the company would have to dump trash in an area that would cause major water drainage problems in the canyon, said Chris Funk, an attorney representing Browning-Ferris.
At the end of the hearing, however, Supervisor Mike Antonovich, who represents the area, directed county experts to evaluate the proposal for an expansion of 10 million tons.
Funk contended that increasing the capacity by either 10 million or 17 million tons would be a financial hardship, saying Browning-Ferris must pay many of the same fixed costs even if the expansion is relatively small.
But Supervisor Pete Schabarum remained skeptical of the company’s contention. He said he wanted experts at the Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts to examine Browning-Ferris’ data on fixed start-up costs.
“I want to direct the applicant to provide this board with a complete justification of why they feel going beyond the Planning Commission’s recommendation of 17 million tons is economically necessary,” Schabarum said.
Expansion opponents tried to debunk the company’s minimization of the environmental damage a larger landfill would cause. Consultants who visited the property earlier this month at the request of the opponents said the company played down the potential destruction.
Christine Perala, a botanical consultant, said Browning-Ferris’ estimate of the number of trees that would be cut could be off by 50%. She said 10,000 to 15,000 oaks would probably be cut. The California Native Plant Society also found that 28 endangered plant species were not on the list of endangered plants in Browning-Ferris’ environmental impact report.
The board will resume its discussion of the proposal on Jan. 17.