An environmental group’s court challenge of a planned industrial waste landfill near the community of Alsen in north Baton Rouge was thrown out Monday by a state judge.
District Judge Mike Caldwell’s dismissal of the Louisiana Environmental Action Network lawsuit came five months after he dismissed a similar city-parish suit against the state Department of Environmental Quality, which granted a permit in April for Louisiana Land Acquisitions LLC to take in industrial waste at the planned landfill along Brooklawn Road.
The city-parish is appealing Caldwell’s earlier dismissal of its suit.
LEAN attorney Corinne Van Dalen said after Monday’s court hearing that the group is disappointed with the judge’s decision but added it is too early to say whether an appeal will be filed.
LLA attorney Tim Hardy said outside Caldwell’s courtroom that the company’s state permit was properly considered and issued by DEQ.
“We’re very pleased with the court’s decision. This has been a long and arduous process,” Hardy said, adding he hopes there will be finality to the legal challenge in the very near future.
DEQ attorney Elliott Vega declined comment, citing the pending nature of the litigation.
Hardy told Caldwell in July that LLA would not accept any waste at its planned landfill until the legal challenge to its approved state permit is resolved.
Caldwell agreed Monday with attorneys for DEQ and LLA and said LEAN failed to produce evidence at the administrative level to back up its claims. LEAN contends the alternative site analysis and cost-benefit analysis involving the planned landfill were flawed. The group also raised environmental justice issues.
In dismissing the city-parish suit in July, Caldwell said the city-parish failed to formally raise its issues with DEQ while the agency was considering the permit application.
DEQ granted LLA’s permit over the objections of Metro Council members, Mayor-President Kip Holden and other elected officials as well as a number of Alsen residents. Some Alsen residents were in favor of the permit approval, primarily because of company promises of financial donations to community programs.
LLA first applied for a landfill permit in 1997 under a slightly different name, but that was denied in 2000 after DEQ found the application to be technically deficient. The company applied for a new permit in 2008, but that too was denied because DEQ found there already was enough capacity in existing industrial waste landfills nearby.
The company sued, but before the case went to trial, the firm asked for a chance to resubmit its application. The next permit application — filed in 2013 — was similar but narrowed the potential service area for the landfill to address the previous concern about overcapacity.
The permit submitted last year reduced the landfill’s planned service area, which was cited as a main reason for the permit approval.
Years ago, a pit was constructed at the site of the landfill to handle hazardous waste from the Petro-Processors of Louisiana Superfund site across the road, but plans changed and the pit has sat empty for years. The pit is next to a lead recycler with its own landfill areas and a facility that creates calcined petroleum coke used in making aluminum.