The developers of a landfill in Richland County are taking legal action against the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, alleging the agency’s failure to comply with its own rules and deadlines has forced the project into an indefinite “administrative purgatory.”
“We worked very hard to meet all the state’s requirements, and we spent quite a bit of money engineering a state-of-the-art facility to assure that everyone’s requirements would be met with this landfill,” said Todd Erickson, corporate development officer for JMAC Energy Services, Inc. “We were very disappointed when it appeared that the DEQ didn’t follow its own requirements to issue our license, which is why we are compelled to take this legal route. If we are successful, this will help out the local economy in Eastern Montana during a time when good news about jobs is scarce.”
Yellowstone Disposal LLC, the JMAC subsidiary developing the landfill, filed its claim in the Fifth Judicial District Court on July 13th, demanding the agency either issue Yellowstone Disposal’s license to operate the landfill or compel the DEQ to issue a final decision on the application.
“Several statutory obligations are at issue in this dispute--both in the Solid Waste Management Act and the Montana Environmental Policy Act,” said Matt Kelly, an attorney representing the company.
Yellowstone Disposal applied for a license for the landfill, located on land in Richland County east of Sidney, in June 2015. The DEQ notified the company that its application was complete in March 2016, setting into motion a mandated 60-day public scoping process, and a 90-day environmental review.
However, the agency did not issue a draft Environmental Assessment until November 2017. DEQ concluded the proposed landfill would adhere to all environmental and public health requirements and did not conflict with any state or local laws, requirements or plans. The DEQ held two public meetings on the proposal.
In March 2018, the Richland County Commission passed a resolution creating a “citizen- initiated zoning district” that surrounded the landfill property. In January 2019, the DEQ informed Yellowstone Disposal that because of the zoning change it had decided to stay its environmental review and licensing determination.
“The pleadings identify several failures by DEQ to comply with governing statutes,” said Mr. Kelly. “These failures have left Yellowstone Disposal without alternative options. We look forward to the District Court’s resolution of these issues.”