Earth Log: One more thing about hazardous waste landfill

The Fresno BeeJuly 23, 2013 

My Sunday story covered the money aspects of expanding the hazardous waste site near Kettleman City. But there is a lower-profile issue that shows how contentious this expansion has become.

Activists, who have long battled the nearby Waste Management Inc. landfill, say they didn't like the Kings County-appointed committee that recommended many of the financial benefits on tap for Kettleman.

Among the benefits Waste Management agreed to provide if the expansion is approved: paying off a $552,000 debt on the town water system and donating $450,000 for school improvement.

Paying off the water system debt is no small favor for Kettleman City. It will allow the state to provide $8 million for a water treatment plant — many consider it a leap forward for Kettleman City.

But the activists were rankled because there was only one Kettleman City resident on the county-appointed committee.

The list included three people from Hanford and one each from Avenal, Laton and Lemoore. The county stands to gain $1.5 million annually in fees if the state allows expansion of the landfill.

The committee was stacked so that county approval of the landfill expansion was inevitable, activists say.

"It was a joke," said resident Maricela Mares Alatorre of the People for Clean Air and Water. "Where was the understanding of Kettleman City's problems?"

Alatorre also is a full-time employee of Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice, a national advocacy group with an office in San Francisco. She says activists will do whatever they can to stop the expansion, including filing suit.

For their part, Kings County officials said they had problems filling out the local committee that suggested the financial benefits for Kettleman City.

In the end, Supervisor Richard Valle said he was able to add Avenal resident Alvaro Preciado, who has family in Kettleman City and cares deeply about the issues in the town.

Hydro project on Kings near Sanger considered

The Kings River Conservation District wants to study a project to install a small hydroelectric unit on the Kings River near Sanger — creating electricity by using the river's flow at Gould Weir.

It's part of California's push to have 33% of its energy portfolio in renewable technologies, such as solar, wind and hydro, by 2020.

Though such small hydro is an established technology, this project wouldn't happen anytime soon. The district has applied to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for a permit to study it. The study probably would take three years.

The main question: Could this project produce enough electricity to make it work financially for the district?

"The river doesn't run all year round," district general manager Dave Orth said.

He said the district is the leading resource agency in the region, making it the logical choice to study the project's feasibility and development in an environmentally appropriate manner.

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