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Justices find statute doesn't apply to landfill facility

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The Indiana Supreme Court has ruled on a 30-year fight between the owners of a proposed landfill and neighbors, ruling that a new law doesn’t apply to the facility or require it to get a new permit.

In Killbuck Concerned Citizens Association v. J.M. Corporation and Ralph Reed, No. 48S00-1003-PL-158, a group of Madison County residents, some who own land close to the proposed landfill of J.M. Corporation, appealed the approval of the landfill’s permit for construction. The Madison County Board of Zoning Appeals granted the zoning petition in 1981.

Over the years, JMC had been granted an operating permit by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, but because of an appeal by the citizens association, the issue went back before the Indiana Office of Environmental Adjudication. JMC and IDEM have met several times to attempt to finalize the operating permit, but their efforts failed and the matter was appealed again.

The appeal was resolved when the Office of Environmental Adjudication ruled in October 2004 that an operating permit had been issued to JMC in 1998 and IDEM improperly denied JMC’s permit renewal application and request for extension of time. But a new law passed in March 2008 says a facility that didn’t accept waste before April 1, 2008, had to return to county zoning authorities for a new permit. JMC installed and operated a collection container system on its property and at the end of March 2008, it had received household trash from paying customers.

The citizens association sought a declaratory judgment in June 2008 that Indiana Code 13-20-2-11 applied to JMC so it had to seek current zoning approval. The trial court granted JMC’s motion for summary judgment and denied the association’s motion for summary judgment. The trial court held that the statute violated the Indiana Constitution because it was a special law that could have been made to apply generally. It also ruled the collection container system didn’t constitute accepting waste.

The Supreme Court didn’t address the constitutional issue and instead focused on the application of the statute to JMC. The justices, in applying the recognized definitions of “facility,” “accept,” and “waste,” unanimously held that the statute doesn’t apply to JMC because the landfill accepted waste before April 1, 2008.

In addition, the facility was only required to have “accepted” waste before the applicable deadline and the waste was not required to be deposited or disposed of as it would be in a landfill, wrote Justice Frank Sullivan.

The justices reversed the trial court and remanded for further proceedings consistent with the opinion.

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