From a competitor in Kern County, to a middle-man operative, the cast involved in a coordinated effort to prevent a High Desert composting facility from opening is interesting.
The facility to be operated by Nursery Products, LLC is located eight miles west of Hinkley, California, and it’s causing quiet a stir in the High Desert.
Hinkley was made famous by the movie Erin Brockovich. The small town suffered severe soil and groundwater contamination at the hands of Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E).
The PG&E contamination led to a class action lawsuit by hundreds of residents claiming multiple illnesses, cancers, pre-mature deaths, and birth defects from exposure to chromium-6.
The case resulted in a private binding arbitration decision of $333 million against PG&E.
However, the proposed waste conversion facility in question, serves a very important environmental purpose by allowing the reuse of treated biological waste.
The project has enjoyed the support of the County Board of Supervisors and Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt. After all, why not use a remote desert area for such a purpose.
The questions arising in this story center around the opposition.
What on its face appears to be community opposition may in fact be anti-competition activity. Apparently a Bakersfield company stands to lose with a new competitor.
The company, McCarthy Farms/Liberty Energy operates a composting facility in Bakersfield, California, at a cost of nearly 75% more per ton of waste than Nursery Products.
A large savings for local governments an rate payers.
For McCarthy, it’s a nice gig if you can get it.
Enter local resident Norman Diaz.
Mr. Diaz appears to be the center of the opposition to Nursery Products. Diaz wants residents to believe that a composting facility will bring PG&E type contamination to the area.
You’ve got to be kidding.
Diaz is tied to Hills Ranch, LLC. Diaz’s mother is part owner of the property. The sole income is a water rights allotment.
The only problem here? Diaz’s activities appear likely to be on McCarthy’s dime.
Diaz has created the website www.helphinkley.org as his platform to operate from. The site looks as if it were operated by a six year old.
Now enter Kimbery Cox.
Cox is the General Manager of the Helendale Community Services District (CSD), and a member of the Mojave Water Agency and the San Bernardino County Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO).
The Helendale CSD boundary is located six miles from the proposed Nursery Products site.
In December 2009, Cox sent a letter on behalf of the Helendale CSD to the San Bernardino County Land Use Services Department challenging the supplemental environmental impact report and objecting to the importation of sludge from other counties, the water usage estimate for the facility, the need for enclosure of the facility, and the increase in traffic flow.
A nice advocate against the facility.
Diaz and his Helphinkley.org engaged the Center for Biological Diversity to litigate the Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) used to approve the business. The center is a group of attorneys who make money by filing environmental lawsuits with the purpose of being awarded attorney’s fees for the work performed.
The Fourth District Court of Appeal struck down certain provisions of the FEIR and the center recovered hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees.
The county is set to approve a since-amended report this month, which addresses concerns of the appellate court justices.
The need for another composting facility is obvious. The savings to local taxpayers and governments is very apparent.
However, the loss to McCarthy/Liberty maybe the central issue here.