By Danny restivo
For more than eight years, Trans Rail America Inc. has fought to place a landfill on a 243-acre piece of land in the township.
And the fight continues.
The legal battles have included hearings with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, the 10th District Court of Appeals, the Ohio Supreme Court, and a $50 million lawsuit that was filed against elected officials.
Frederick V. Hudach, vice president of operations for Trans Rail America, said the company doesn’t plan to give up the fight anytime soon.
“This is about constitutional rights,” he said. “There is always a need for a landfill.”
Hudach submitted Trans Rail’s application for a construction and demolition-debris facility to Trumbull County Health Department in May 2004. The county ruled the application was incomplete. Trans Rail argued the decision and appealed to the Ohio EPA’s Environmental Review Appeals Commission, which ruled in favor of the county.
Trans Rail then appealed to the 10th District appellate court, which ruled in Trans Rail’s favor. The county appealed that ruling to the Ohio Supreme Court, which ruled in the county’s favor and returned the matter to the appellate court. The 10th District court then overturned its original ruling in favor of the county in 2007.
Trans Rail then filed a motion to reconsider that ruling with the EPA. The issue remained in limbo and wasn’t ruled on until a new EPA director took office.
On June 21, Scott J. Nally, EPA director who was appointed by Gov. John Kasich in 2011, said Trans Rail’s landfill facility application could be processed under an older and less-stringent set of guidelines.
The county health department, where applications for landfills are filed, is now appealing Nally’s decision.
Around the same time of Nally’s decision, Trumbull County Common Pleas Court ordered the Hubbard Township Zoning Board to change the zoning of the proposed landfill site from light industrial to a heavy industrial.
According to zoning regulations, a landfill such as Trans Rail’s could be placed only in a heavy-industrial location.
The proposed site is along Mount Everett Road near Interstate 80.
“My concern is if they build the landfill, I would encourage them to build it under newer state guidelines,” said township Trustee Fred Hanley.
Since 2005, the state has implemented new laws to limit the environmental impact of waste-management sites. Because Trans Rail’s application was filed in 2004, Hanley hopes guidelines for the facility fall within the new law. He and other officials point to nearby Little Yankee Creek as a place that could be damaged from landfill runoff.
“It’s the environmental impact I’m concerned with,” he said.
Hanley and 25 other government officials, including U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Niles, D-17th, were listed as defendants in a civil lawsuit by Trans Rail.
The suit claimed the defendants “tried to conspire” against the business. It was dismissed by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in May. One of the federal appellate judges stated: “Trans Rail has not alleged a single fact that would support a conclusion that the defendants had combined to wrong Trans Rail. Instead, Trans Rail takes the position that it may simply make conclusory allegations that a conspiracy existed, conduct discovery and then see whether or not a viable conspiracy claim exists. The Court rejects this notion.”
Hudach understands reservations residents have about a waste-management site in the township, but he believes it will be a valuable space if oil- and gas-processing plants are built in the area.
“It will be important to be self-sufficient in taking care of our own waste,” he said.