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). This sort of thing is a land use issue, and 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 before being granted. 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 receives testimony from the public 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…

Cross-section diagram of how the 2021 proposed expansion would fill the valley from ridge to ridge, obliterating Coffin Butte Road (proposed new disposal cell is in green). View is from the intersection of 99W and Coffin Butte Rd. The Benton County Courthouse and Statue of Liberty provide scale to give you a sense of the anticipated height of the proposed cell.

…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. It is the main reason for our development of this website — our desire is to gather facts about the issue all in one place so that folks who want to know what’s going on can do so by perusing this site.

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. (Note that you may see the name Valley Landfills associated with the landfill — they were the “property owner” on the application and Republic Services was the “applicant” — but they also happen to be a subsidiary of Republic Services. This distinction matters, as you will learn elsewhere on this website.)

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 this pig of an application to reliably get their appeal granted and 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”. And so we are vigilant. And so we continue to do our research, uncover new facts, gather them here for you… because Republic Services could drop a new application at any time, and we need to be prepared.