ATTORNEY SAYS GUAM LANDFILL PLAN ILLEGAL

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HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, August 9) – Guam’s local government is illegally moving forward with plans to build a new landfill in Dandan, Inarajan, an attorney for residents who oppose that site told Supreme Court of Guam justices yesterday afternoon.

Attorney Cesar Cabot told justices that a 1996 law which states that the next landfill must be built in the Guatali area of Piti, still is valid. That law says another site can be chosen only for a "legitimate" reason, Cabot said.

He said the Guam Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Public Works don't have the right to choose a site, only to investigate and recommend a site for adoption by lawmakers.

Cabot represents a group of residents led by former Ordot-Chalan Pago Mayor Rossana San Miguel, who sued government officials in 2004 in an attempt to force them to abandon their plans at Dandan, and instead build the landfill in Guatali, or Mala'a.

Laws passed in the 1990s identified Guatali and Mala'a as future landfill sites, but both were ruled out by the environmental agency because of factors such as the slope and size of the properties.

Guam EPA and Public Works have said Guatali was ruled out because it sits on an active fault line, splitting the site in two, meaning that any landfill located there would be too small, according to Pacific Daily News Files.

Superior Court of Guam Judge Katherine Maraman last September denied the residents' motion for a preliminary injunction, which would have ordered GovGuam to stop work on Dandan until the lawsuit was tried.

Maraman said she believed the residents were unlikely to win their case because the government had appropriately reviewed the sites before ruling them out.

Supreme Court Chief Justice F. Philip Carbullido and Associate Justice Robert Torres during yesterday's hearing both questioned whether the Supreme Court is able to address the landfill issue because it has not been tried in the lower court and there is no final judgment.

Cabot said he believes the Supreme Court has jurisdiction because the lower court's decision to deny the injunction will cause taxpayer money to be illegally spent. Given the gravity of the issue, it is appropriate for justices to review the lower court's decision, Cabot said.

Justices asked Cabot whether a federal court order which requires the local government to close the Ordot dump and open a new landfill is an issue in the case. The court-ordered deadline to select a landfill site has passed and federal officials already have agreed to the Dandan site, they noted.

Cabot said the two issues are separate, and it is the fault of officials at Public Works and the environmental agency, who he said, "chose to ignore the law." Cabot said there must be a significant reason -- a "showstopper" -- in order for any other site to be chosen, such as engineering or scientific issues.

Assistant Attorney General Philip Isaac, who represents Public Works and the environmental agency in the case, yesterday told justices that lawmakers have not attempted to block the use of Dandan as the new landfill site.

Isaac told justices that the environmental agency on Aug. 4 sent lawmakers a landfill proposal, which they have 90 days to consider, otherwise it will be automatically approved.

But officials at the speaker's office, the legislative clerk's office and the legislative secretary's office yesterday said they have not received any plan related to the new landfill.

[PIR editor’s note: According to PIR archives, in February this year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency began imposing fines on the Guam Department of Public Works for missing the deadline to submit plans and a permit application for a new municipal solid waste landfill.]

August 9, 2006

Pacific Daily News: www.guampdn.com

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