A North Carolina company has filed a $25 million lawsuit against the Pickens County Planning Commission in response to the county’s recent decision to revoke approval for the company’s proposed coal ash landfill at a Pickens County site.
In the complaint, MRR Pickens states that the Pickens County Planning Commission illegally terminated MRR Pickens’ 2015 Land Use Approval and ordered MRR to immediately cease and desist all activities – based on unsubstantiated rumors and media reports – at landfill property MRR Pickens owns.
This action by MRR Pickens is “utterly groundless, frivolous and in direct contravention of MRR’s repeated representations for years to the citizens of Pickens County,” says Gary Poliakoff, a Spartanburg attorney representing the defendants.
Upstate residents will meet to discuss the proposed coal ash landfill on Thursday, Feb. 11, 6-8 p.m., in the auditorium at Liberty Middle School in Liberty.
MRR Southern of Greensboro, N.C., has plans to dump coal ash in a Class 2 landfill that was permitted to take only construction and demolition (C&D) waste.
Local citizens, environmental groups and others have warned that a coal ash landfill could harm public health.
“I don’t want any kind of coal ash brought into Pickens County,” said S.C. Rep. Davey Hiott (Pickens District 4). “The county entered into an agreement in 2007 to have a construction and demolition landfill, but because of the recession, it didn’t open.”
Instead, in 2014, the landfill owner, MMR, asked to put in a liner before building the landfill. The request was approved by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) because it would make the proposed C&D landfill even safer, Hiott said.
But in recent months, the county learned that MMR’s true plans were to dump coal ash in the C&D landfill.
Citizens and groups like Upstate Forever have united to keep the landfill from opening and storing coal ash.
“We will do whatever we can to prevent MRR from dumping coal ash in a class 2 landfill at this site or any site in the Upstate,” said Andrea Cooper, executive director of Upstate Forever.
The organization will sue MRR if necessary, she said.
One of the chief problems Pickens County faces is that its current R&D landfill is running out of space, which is why the county first agreed to let MRR build one locally, Cooper said.
“Pickens County will indeed find itself in a bind in just a few years if MRR pursues the coal ash project rather than sticking with the C&D landfill it had promised the county it would provide in exchange for the county amending its Solid Waste Management Plan many years ago when MRR first approached them,” Cooper explained.
MRR has tried to build coal ash landfills in other South Carolina counties, including Williamsburg and Marlboro, Hiott said.
“They were not successful, and now they’re in a legal battle in Marlboro County,” he said. “Then they saw some property for sale in Pickens, purchased it, and we’re here today.”
MRR seeks an inexpensive place to store coal ash for a client, Cooper said.
Storing coal ash in a C&D landfill is cheaper than building a Class 3 landfill and following the Coal Ash Rule, which requires separation from groundwater, dust control, leachate management, an adequate synthetic liner and a public website with information posted, Cooper explained.
“Upstate Forever is waiting to see how this plays out legally between Pickens County and MRR,” she said. “We’ll see if further support by our organization is needed.”
Pickens County has to succeed in preventing a coal ash landfill for the sake of its citizens, Hiott said.
“This is the number one issue in Pickens, a very serious issue,” Hiott said. “It could have lasting effects on our children and great-grandchildren and many generations to come.”
View the full complain against MR Pickens here.