Deal Said Near for Dump Site; Consensus Reached for Waste Facilities on Indian Tribal Land

    State environmental officials and two San Diego-area Indian tribes are nearing agreement on legislation to end a dispute over plans to develop waste-disposal facilities on reservations in California.

    Sources say a general consensus has been reached among the various parties on how to resolve their basic differences by allowing some state oversight of the waste facilities but also preserving the Indians, sovereignty.

    Yesterday, representatives of the two San Diego-area tribes, Campo and La Posta; the California Environmental Protection Agency; the attorney generals office; and Assemblyman Steve Peace's office spent four hours on a conference telephone call to iron out the details of a deal.

    A follow-up telephone session was likely to occur today to continue that process.

    If an agreement is reached, it is expected to result in major amendments overhauling a bill sponsored by Peace, D-Chula Vista.

    Peace's measure, AB 240, already has passed the Assembly and is scheduled for a hearing on Monday before the Senate Toxics and Public Safety Management Committee.

    Rodney Blonien, an attorney representing developers of the La Posta waste project who participated in yesterday's talks, was optimistic that the parties are on the brink of a compromise.

    "They're basically going through (the legislation) trying to do some fine-tuning. I think it's looking upbeat," Blonien said.

    "It looks like we're making some progress," said Julie Trueblood, an aide to Peace who has been focusing on the issue.

    In its original form, Peace's bill would have prohibited development of solid or hazardous waste facilities on reservations unless they first obtained state permits.

    Now, AB 240 appears likely to be revised so that such projects would effectively be exempted from the ordinary state permit process. The bill would instead authorize California authorities to work out regulatory compacts with individual tribes desiring to develop such facilities on their lands.

    The compacts would spell out the right of state officials to review plans for waste facilities, inspect them after they are built, and ensure that they are operated in compliance with applicable environmental laws.

    The bill language is being crafted to preserve the Indians, claims to legal sovereignty over their reservations. Tribal groups contend that projects on their lands are not subject to state approval.

    The deal would likewise provide assurance to state officials that such projects will be developed and operated in a way that will not endanger the environment.

    Peace, who had won the backing of the Sierra Club and other conservation groups for his bill, has contended that waste companies were enticing tribes into being hosts for such projects in order to circumvent Californials strict environmental laws.

    The controversy over the reservation projects has raged in the California Legislature for nearly two years and has attracted national attention.

    The Campo Band of Mission Indians has contracted with Ohio-based Mid-American Waste Systems to build a solid-waste landfill on its reservation near Boulevard.

    The La Posta tribe has proposed a hazardous-waste incinerator and recycling center on its land near Lake Morena. It would be developed by W.R. Grace & Co. of New York.

    Tribal leaders say their projects would provide badly needed jobs for their impoverished members and would be operated in full conformity with federal environmental requirements.

Found on Lexis-Nexis
Copyright 1991 The San Diego Union-Tribune
The San Diego Union-Tribune
August 16, 1991, Friday
SECTION: LOCAL; Ed. 2,3,5,6,1,4; Pg. B-1
BYLINE: Daniel C. Carson; Staff Writer