Victory! San Benito County Landfill Expansion Defeated

Thanks to your efforts, these green rolling hills on John Smith Road will not be turned into a mountain of trash.

San Benito County celebrated a victory for open space and rangeland in March when a proposal to expand the John Smith Road Landfill to five times its current size was withdrawn by the landfill operator after overwhelming public opposition.

The County had been considering a massive expansion to the John Smith Road Landfill for years. The landfill operator, Waste Solutions, had proposed expanding the landfill from 95 acres to 483 acres in order to accommodate bringing in up to 2,000 extra tons of garbage from other counties every day. Green Foothills and local organizers worked to educate the public on this issue, had conversations with county decision makers, and encouraged the community to send letters and attend Planning Commission meetings. The community turned out en masse to voice their opposition to expanding the landfill. In February, the County Planning Commission denied Waste Solutions’ request for the expansion, stating that the unavoidable environmental costs outweighed any benefits to the county. Shortly after, Waste Solutions appealed the decision to the Board of Supervisors, who were prepared to hold a public hearing on the issue on March 26th. Just days before the hearing, and without explanation, Waste Solutions withdrew their appeal. This means the Planning Commission’s denial of the project stands.

A bad deal for the county and the environment

Unsurprisingly, housing the region’s largest megadump would have a slew of negative consequences for the county. The Environmental Impact Report found that greenhouse gas emissions would increase significantly, even with mitigation, and impacts to the aesthetics of the county would be unavoidable. Increased truck traffic would cause additional air pollution, harm the roads, and generally decrease the community’s quality of life. On top of all this, the agreement between Waste Solutions and the county could leave the county responsible for the majority of the cost of repairing the damage done to the roads from this increased usage. Despite the fact that the main motivation for bringing in out-of-county garbage would be to bring in revenue for San Benito, it could ultimately end up costing the county money.

The landfill expansion would have also impacted a number of threatened or endangered species. The California red-legged frog, Western Burrowing Owl, California tiger salamander, San Joaquin kit fox and American badger are just a few of the many animals that would be significantly affected by this expansion.

Continuing to work towards solutions

The John Smith Road Landfill currently has 12 years worth of capacity, which means the county will need to decide what to do with San Benito’s waste in the relatively near future. Green Foothills and community members are ready to be active participants in this conversation. We are confident that there is a solution that will meet the county’s needs without having an undue negative impact on the environment.

There is also a chance that Waste Solutions will come back with a revised proposal. If that happens, we will be ready to take action. We will keep you informed.

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