Waste Not . . . : Environment: Bill would place tight limits on landfills in local mountain ranges.


First-term Assemblywoman Sheila J. Kuehl has announced legislation that would prevent the expansion of existing landfills or the creation of new ones in the Santa Monica Mountains and other local mountain ranges.

Assembly Bill 407, she said, would offset legislation enacted recently by the House of Representatives that weakens the power of federal agencies to issue regulations to protect the environment. The dismantling of regulations at the federal level, she said, could pave the way for the extension of the life of the Calabasas Landfill and other landfills in the area covered under Kuehl's bill.

She made her announcement recently at the Calabasas Landfill, next to the Chesebro Canyon unit of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, a unit of the National Park Service. She chose that spot, she said, because it illustrates the impact that landfills have on a pristine environment.

"People think that parkland is protected," said Kuehl (D-Santa Monica). "They don't know that it is not. They don't know that it is riddled with landfills waiting to expand."

Kuehl was joined by several elected officials, including Agoura Hills Mayor Louise Rishoff, Calabasas City Councilwoman Lesley Devine and representatives from the offices of Rep. Anthony C. Beilenson (D-Woodland Hills) and Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-Panorama City). Various area environmentalists were also on hand.

Another area of concern, Kuehl and the others said, is Sullivan Canyon above Brentwood, which has been identified by the Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts as a potential landfill site. Officials from that agency say plans to put a landfill there have been put on hold because federal law prohibits locating landfills in recreation areas.

Loretta Ditlow, a member of the Brentwood Community Federation, said she is worried that a landfill would ruin the area's environment.

"It would impact the whole Westside," she said. "It would impact the whole Topanga State Park."

Don Nellor, head of solid waste planning for the Sanitation Districts, said Kuehl's legislation is redundant because the government already has ample power to regulate landfills.

He cited a 1984 federal law, implemented this year, that gives the U.S. Park Service authority to regulate landfills within park boundaries. Officials, he said, fear that the law could allow the Park Service to impose a new set of conditions on the Calabasas landfill that could force the garbage dump's closure.

As for Sullivan Canyon, he said, officials are handcuffed by the federal law prohibiting landfills in national recreation areas.

"The law would have to change before we could proceed, and we don't have any plans right now to proceed," he said.

Laura Plotkin, chief deputy for Kuehl, said the assemblywoman's bill is designed to extend protection to areas outside the Park Service's jurisdiction. The bill, Plotkin said, covers 450,000 acres of the Santa Monica Mountains, San Rafael Hills, Verdugo Hills, San Gabriel Mountains, Simi Hills, Santa Susana Mountains and the Santa Clarita Woodlands area.

The bill would prevent the expansion of existing landfills in Mission, Lopez and Sunshine canyons and the Calabasas Landfill, Kuehl said.

It would prohibit the construction of landfills in Sullivan and Rustic canyons in the Santa Monica Mountains, Blind Canyon in the Simi Hills and Towsley Canyon in the Santa Clarita Woodlands, she said.

Joseph T. Edmiston, executive director of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, predicted that Kuehl will have a tough fight to get the bill passed. "She's going to get calls from politicians, from waste management people saying, 'Don't mess with the system,' " he said.

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