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Landfills in Pennsylvania Face Tougher Standards
Harrisburg, PA— Responding to complaints and concerns from residents living near landfills, State Senator John Rafferty will introduce a legislative package that would strengthen enforcement efforts at landfills and penalize operators who repeatedly violate those standards.
Rafferty said that while landfills are currently regulated by the State Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), stronger guidelines are needed to protect the environment and quality of life in surrounding communities. His package would set higher standards for landfill operators to meet before they could receive a permit to expand, make it easier to suspend permits if violations occur, and crack down on those operators who break the law.
“Area residents have legitimate concerns about how landfills will impact their lives and their properties, including odors, blowing trash, dust, noise and truck traffic,” Rafferty said. “In too many cases, landfill operators receive complaints because of violations but they don’t follow through in correcting them. DEP steps in, but all too often the operator responds with a temporary fix, only to have the problem recur. This is frustrating for those affected, and should not be tolerated. And landfills that operate this way should be heavily fined and made to correct the problems.”
Rafferty said his legislation would amend current law to tighten standards and impose new penalties on landfill operators who fail to meet them. These include:
• Doubling penalties for multiple violations. DEP could double the maximum penalty (up to $50,000) for landfill operators who show a pattern of repeated violations or multiple violations of the same requirement, including odor. In addition, DEP would be prohibited from waiving fines if the problem is fixed. Rafferty said this would prevent landfill operators from making short-term corrections to problems and then allowing violations to occur again.
• Prohibiting landfill operators from applying for permits to operate new landfills or expand existing landfills if they have outstanding violations, including odor, at any facility they currently operate in Pennsylvania.
• Adopting a “three strikes and you’re out” rule during permit reviews. DEP would be required to suspend the review of landfill permits if more than three violations occur at a facility.
• Requiring DEP, when reviewing compliance history for a landfill permit, to consider odor as a major violation, which could result in the denial, suspension or revocation of a landfill permit. DEP currently considers odor a ‘nuisance’ violation. Rafferty said that odor is a major complaint for residents who live near landfills, and has a significant impact on quality of life and property values.
• Giving impacted communities greater input in the permitting process and access to information about the landfill operator.