VIDEO: Court Blocks GEPA From Issuing Permit to GRRP; Orders AG to Investigate Letter From Former Administrator Cruz

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Guam – District Court Judge Francis Tydingco-Gatewood has ordered the Attorney General to review the process Guam EPA used to issue a letter of intent to grant GRRP a draft operations permit to construct a landfill in Gutali. And she has blocked GEPA from issuing such a permit until that review is done.

Her order was issued late Thursday afternoon at the request of GBB’s Principal Associate David Manning who asked the Court for the AG to look into the issuance of the letter.

Read Judge Tydingco-Gatewood’s order

GBB is the Federal Receiver overseeing construction of the court ordered landfill in Layon and Manning made his request in a Special Report filed with the Court earlier on Thursday.

In his Special Report,  Manning raises a number of concerns about the December 30th letter from former Guam EPA Administrator Elizabeth Cruz who on December 30th of last year wrote to GRRP President Wagdy Guirguis expressing GEPA’s intent to grant the permit.

In her letter, Cruz wrote: “I am pleased to inform you that based on documents submitted for technical adequacy by GRRP to this Agency, Guam EPA intends to issue a draft RCRA D MSWLF Operations permit.”

Read Former Acting Guam EPA Administrator Elizabeth Cruz’s December 30th letter

The letter was one of the final acts of the former Acting GEPA Administrator, but no permit has been issued to GRRP yet. And a 45 day public comment period which was supposed to begin this past Monday, was unexpectedly delayed.

On Wednesday, the EPA’s Conchita Taitano told us that the new Acting GEPA Director, Ivan Quinata, is off island and has specifically requested to reserve comment on the letter, and the delay in the comment period, until his return next Monday.

But whatever announcement Quinata intended to make on Monday has now been trumped by Judge Tydingco-Gatewood’s order which states that “before GEPA issues a draft permit for the Guatali site” her order, based on the Receiver’s Special Report, must be satisfied.

In his Special Report, Manning writes that Guam EPA’s treatment of  GRRP’s application for a landfill in Gutali “seems to evidence that a different standard is being applied by GEPA in its review of the GRRP permit application that appears to be detrimental to the environmental standards GEPA is required to uphold.”

Read Manning’s Special Report filed by GBB over Cruz’s December 30th letter

Manning also points out to the Federal Court that “in addition to the potential environmental damage such a course of action could cause, it will likely result in a reduction in cost for any landfill that is actually constructed with less stringent environmental protections and thus create a competitive disadvantage for the Layon Landfill which was held to a higher and more costly standard.”

Manning also questions why Guam EPA issued the letter when they had already determined that the Gutali site was unacceptable as a landfill.

“We have been aware of the fact that the Guatali site was found to be an unacceptable site by GEPA,” writes Manning.

“GEPA actually memorialized this in granting the permit to the Receiver for the Layon Landfill when describing the process through which the Layon site was selected; it said ‘Guatali and Malaa were eliminated from further consideration because it does not meet the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Subtitle D requirement for landfill siting.’  Yet despite this finding by GEPA that the Gautali site is not an acceptable landfill site, it now appears that GEPA intends to issue a permit that would allow a landfill on this site.”

Manning also points out that Cruz’s letter also indicates that a copy had been sent to U.S. EPA. But in his court filing today Manning states:

“We made an inquiry to USEPA to determine if they had actually been provided with a copy. USEPA responded that it never received a copy of the correspondence.”

In closing, Manning asked the court to require:

1. The Office of the Attorney General should be directed to review the process used to reach the decision to issue a draft permit to GRRP. Such a review should determine if the process was equivalent in its standards and requirements to those used in the process for the permit issued for the Layon Landfill. In the event that such a review determines that the processes were not equivalent, the Attorney General should advise the Court of the differences and any justification that may exist for the differences.

2. USEPA should also be directed to review the process used to reach the decision to issue a draft permit to GRRP and advise the Court of any discrepancies between that process and the process required of the Receiver to approve the permit for the Layon Landfill.

3. The Office of the Attorney General and Bond Counsel for the Government of Guam should be directed to advise the Court if the issuance of a permit by GEPA for an additional landfill violates Section 6.07 of the Bond Indenture or any other pledge the Government made to secure the bonds needed for compliance with the Consent Decree.

4. GEPA should be directed to explain to the Court why it would permit a landfill on a site GEPA itself has determined not to meet the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Subtitle D requirement for landfill siting.

5. The Governor of Guam should be directed to provide the Court with a revised Consent Decree Financial Plan that will provide, in a manner acceptable to the Court, additional financial resources to the SWMD to compensate for the financial losses that will occur should the Government allow an additional landfill to be constructed.

Click below to see PNC’s Wednesday report with comments from GRRP’s David Sablan over the Cruz Letter: