For Immediate Release, June 7, 2010
||Jill Goetz, Golden Gate University School of Law, (415) 442-6636, firstname.lastname@example.org
Norman Diaz, HelpHinkley.org, (760) 963-3585, email@example.com
Kassie Siegel, Center for Biological Diversity, (760) 366-2232 x 302, firstname.lastname@example.org
Center for Biological Diversity, Residents of Hinkley Win Legal Appeal
Further Environmental Review Needed for Proposed Open-air Compost Facility
in Rural Southern California Community
HINKLEY, Calif.— The Center for Biological Diversity and a group of residents in Hinkley, the rural California town Erin Brockovich made famous in a landmark case against a utility for contaminating the local water supply, has prevailed in the legal appeal of its victory overturning the inadequate environmental review for a proposed open-air sewage sludge compost facility. The Center and HelpHinkley, the community group, were represented in the successful appeal by the Golden Gate University Environmental Law and Justice Clinic and the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment.
The decision, issued by the court of appeals for the fourth appellate district, resolves an appeal brought by the developer of the proposed facility, Nursery Products LLC, which sought to overturn the trial court’s ruling in favor of the local community group HelpHinkley.org and the Center. The appeals court upheld all aspects of the trial court’s ruling in favor of HelpHinkley.org and the Center, finding that the initial environmental review was inadequate because it failed to sufficiently consider measures – in particular enclosing the proposed facility – to mitigate potential air pollution. The court also agreed that the county of San Bernardino had failed to properly assess the impacts of obtaining and using the water needed by the project.
“We are grateful for the hard work by the Environmental Law & Justice Clinic and the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment,” said Norman Diaz of HelpHinkley.org. “Without their work, the community of Hinkley would already be feeling the effects of the proposed sewage sludge dump. This industrial-size facility would dump the waste of 2 million people from other parts of Southern California on the ground, mixed with other waste, and the dust and gases released will travel downwind onto our school playgrounds and homes. This process and project would be illegal where the waste was produced, and yet we are not offered the same protections as the waste producers.”
“This victory proves that a pro bono law school clinic, with the invaluable support of its dedicated students and faculty, can go head-to-head with a large firm and come out victorious,” said Lucas Williams, a graduate fellow at the ELJC who received his law degree from Golden Gate Law in 2008 and argued the appeals case.
“We are encouraged that the judge saw matters our way,” noted Ingrid Brostrom of the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment. “We hope that the county takes this opportunity to provide Hinkley residents with the same level of protection that is already required in other areas.”
Added Kassie Siegel, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute: “This legal victory gives the county a second chance to protect the environment and the health and welfare of Hinkley residents by requiring this facility to use today's technology, rather than the last century’s.
While the appeal was pending, the county of San Bernardino prepared a supplemental environmental analysis, and the Planning Commission reapproved the project. The county board of supervisors is expected to hear an appeal of the second approval in July. “We will press forward with our appeal to the Board of Supervisors for enclosure or comparable safety standards,” said Diaz.