Environmental advocate: Keystone landfill expansion debate is nationally important

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Kyle Wind, Scranton Times-Tribune. 
Friends of Lackawanna hold an panel discussion on the expansion of Keystone Sanitary Landfill with the help of CHEJ.
Keystone Sanitary Landfill’s expansion proposal has national importance because its approval could affect how the Eastern Seaboard disposes of garbage in the coming decades, an environmental activist said Monday.
“I think this is a really important fight at a national level because we have to stop this foolish burying of waste and thinking somehow it has just gone somewhere else,” Lois Gibbs told 400-plus people at a Friends of Lackawanna forum on Pennsylvania’s trash disposal policy.
Ms. Gibbs founded the Love Canal Homeowners’ Association in 1978 amid the Upstate New York environmental crisis that became the catalyst for national legislation known as the Superfund Act. She founded the Center for Health, Environment & Justice in 1981 and continued her activism over the decades, which includes working with groups fighting against landfills.
“This is the largest landfill I have seen in my 37 years,” Ms. Gibbs said, eliciting reactions from hundreds of attendees ranging from murmurs to exclamations. “I cannot imagine what it’s going to look like with a 50-year permit. … I’ve never seen a 50-year permit.”
Keystone officials have cited their environmental record and say they believe the Dunmore and Throop operation is part of the way forward, but Ms. Gibbs sees expansions like Keystone’s plan as ensuring it remains cheaper to send trash to places like Northeast Pennsylvania rather than come up with better solutions.
Keystone consultant Al Magnotta attended the forum and described it as well-conducted and informative — but also felt it’s not quite that simple.
The average American generates 4.3 pounds of waste per day, according to Duke University’s Center for Sustainability and Commerce.
“At this time, there’s no other financially feasible disposal option available,” Mr. Magnotta said. “Thus, the way I see it, the solid waste disposal sites must be environmentally responsible and protect the health and safety of the public. That is the goal the owners of Keystone Sanitary Landfill have assigned me, and I intend to do my best to achieve it.”
Friends of Lackawanna, the grass-roots group that opposes Keystone’s expansion, organized the event to discuss why Pennsylvania is one of the country’s leading garbage importers and how the state can be a catalyst for better public policy.
Along with Ms. Gibbs, speakers included Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Casey; state Sen. John Blake, D-22, Archbald; John Quigley, secretary of the state Department of Environmental Protection; and Stephen Lester, science director of the Center for Health, Environment & Justice.
Mr. Casey talked about his proposed TRASH Act that so far hasn’t made it past the committee level. The legislation would allow states to set minimum environmental standards for trash coming from other states and allow states to charge a premium for accepting garbage through community impact fees.
Mr. Blake discussed the process of getting the health study surrounding Keystone’s proposal by the state Department of Health and Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.
Mr. Quigley assured him DEP won’t make a decision on the expansion until study’s results are in, Mr. Blake said.
“We can’t expect decisions to be made by a regulatory authority without full information,” Mr. Blake said. “I am looking at writing legislation … to see if in fact we should make this a requirement going forward. It really ought to be every time a landfill starts or a landfill expands.”
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