Representative Bryan Terry, MD(R-Murfreesboro) has filed legislation to require a letter of support from local governments for any application to expand or modify an existing landfill. With MiddlePoint Landfill trying to expand, the legislation is timely and, if passed, will provide local governments the opportunity to have input on any landfill’s expansion application to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC).
“When a landfill is looking to expand or make a major modification, they must go through a multi-step process with TDEC. Part two of that process is an application that requires an engineering plan and a hydrogeological survey, amongst other items,” explained Terry. “My bill would require that, in order for the Part 2 application to be considered complete, a landfill would need letters of support from local governments that are impacted by the expansion.”
The Jackson Law, which took effect in 1989, grants counties and municipalities local approval rights over an expansion of a landfill, essentially allowing local veto power over any expansion. Unfortunately, a handful of landfills who were in existence or had their permits prior to 1989 are grandfathered out of the Jackson Law, and locals do not have any control over those specific landfills. MiddlePoint is one of the landfills that was permitted prior to the Jackson Law taking effect. The legislator believes that support, or lack of support, from local communities should have a major impact on whether an application should advance.
“Whether it is odors, buzzards, or debris, landfills often have a negative impact on a community,” said Terry. “Unfortunately, landfills may be a necessary evil, but locals need to have input on these issues that impact their daily lives, particularly a decision that may impact generations.”
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Terry said that, in the past, he has tried other legislation including allowing legislators to be landfill inspectors and a bill limiting what waste can be dumped in the landfill. Most recently, he attempted to pass legislation that would allow a mayor to have input on landfill solid waste. Despite these efforts, there have been constitutional, legal, and legislative roadblocks that cannot be overcome.