Who are we?

Valley Neighbors for Environmental Quality and Safety (VNEQS) (pronounced “vee-necks”) is a compendium of Willamette Valley residents that came together originally in opposition to LU-21-047, the Conditional Use Permit (CUP) application submitted by Republic Services in 2021 to expand the Coffin Butte Landfill. Thanks in large part to VNEQS efforts, this highly flawed application, after being unanimously denied by the Benton County Planning Commission, was withdrawn by the applicant in March of 2022. Meanwhile after all we learned during the process and since (see Get Up to Speed) we are now dedicated to preventing ANY expansions of this dump. In this website and our in our communications we hope to provide clear, incontrovertible evidence that no expansion should EVER be allowed.

The Backstory

In the summer of 2021, Republic Services applied to Benton County for permission to expand the Coffin Butte Landfill… again (they’ve expanded a number of times in the past). Because this sort of thing is a land use issue, a permit is required. That kind of permit is called a Conditional Use Permit, or “CUP.” 

Once a CUP application has been submitted, it must go through a public hearing process. Because it is a landfill, the application must first be run by SWAC (the Solid Waste Advisory Council) for their recommendation, and then it moves on to the Planning Commission, which holds a public hearing (receives testimony) and makes a determination.

When landfill neighbors discovered that Republic Services wanted the County to abandon Coffin Butte Road (a public road our tax dollars pay for; a road that is our primary emergency exit route in the event of wildfire) and give that land to them so that they could expand the landfill across it all the way to the ridge on the other side…

…that was more or less the beginning: VNEQS was formed and we all began researching the facts and preparing testimony to submit in opposition to the expansion. The more we learned, the more appalled we became at how atrocious this expansion would be — the environmental impacts, the public health and safety impacts, the climate impacts… and more. It was no longer just about closure of the road; the issues were numerous, and continue to pile up to this day as we learn more. 

Fast-forward to December 7, 2021: thanks in large part to the overwhelming evidence provided in testimony against the expansion, in a unanimous 6-0 vote, The Benton County Planning Commission denied Republic Services’ permit application to expand the landfill.

Of course Republic Services was not happy with this turn of events, so on Dec 20th they appealed the denial to the next higher level of government that could do anything about it: the Benton County Board of Commissioners — but then asked for a “stay of appeal proceedings until March 21st, 2022” so that, in their own words, “we can determine how best to address the Planning Commission’s decision” (i.e. get their shit together).

In the end though, they couldn’t, in fact, figure out how to put enough lipstick on that pig of an application to reliably get their appeal granted, so on March 11th, 2022, they officially withdrew it. HOWEVER, in the same letter where they announced their withdrawal of the application, they also announced their intention to file a new application “in the near future”. 

They held off applying while the County convened a workgroup to address solid waste issues (The “Benton County Talks Trash” or BCTT thing you may have heard about). That process ended in April 2023. 

As of June 2024, the formal application process has now begun, and Republic Services has scheduled a “pre-application meeting” with the Benton County Planning Division. The pre-app meeting is the first step in the Conditional Use Permit application process – which means their application to expand is imminent.