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The Sierra Club’s San Diego chapter today announced the filing of a lawsuit seeking to block the city’s effort to solicit proposals to convert the facility to management by a private company. The city originally began soliciting bids from private firms earlier this month, after an attempt to sell off the landfill outright failed due to no one being interested in bidding.

Sierra Club lawyers claim that the city violated the California Environmental Quality Act by failing to conduct a public review of potential environmental consequences of privatizing the dump’s operation before soliciting bids.

“Under CEQA, government agencies are required to conduct environmental review and analysis at the time a project is defined and approved,” said the Sierra Club’s attorney Craig A. Sherman in a release. “In this case, while the City may not know who its ultimate contractor may be, it knows the project and is required to analyze and avoid adverse effects. The City knowingly failed to conduct any CEQA review and moved forward with approving a privatization project.”

“Public officials are accountable to the taxpayers. Corporate decision makers are required to make money for their shareholders,” added Malinda Dickenson, the group’s legal chair, suggesting the possibility of adverse environmental consequences resulting from a push by a private firm to increase operational efficiency and/or stockholder profit.

Speculating on a possible outcome, the group points to a 2003 decision where a court in San Joaquin County struck down a move by the City of Stockton to privatize its water system without first conducting environmental reviews.” Common sense dictates that methods of operation will differ between a government and private sector based on (at a minimum) the profit motive,” reads an excerpt of that court’s ruling.

“The City is well aware of the substantial health, safety, and environmental risks from its planned transfer of operation of the Miramar Landfill,” concludes Sierra Club San Diego board member Kara Liederman.

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