Planning commission suspends company’s land-use permit

COUNTY — The Pickens County Planning Commission has voted to suspend the land-use permit for a landfill by land owners MRR Pickens LLC as a result of the company’s plan to use the landfill for the disposal of coal ash.

The North Carolina-based company was granted a permit in 2007 and 2015 to create a construction and debris landfill. The approval of the permit was granted after MRR Pickens LLC officials appeared for a public hearing on an application for a renewal of their Feb. 12, 2007, land use permit for a proposed landfill off S.C. Highway 93 near Liberty, according to the Pickens County Planning Commission.

During a planning commission meeting Monday, the commission agreed to suspend the original permit and draft a letter to send to the company.

The letter, signed by all members of the commission, said Ronald Gilbertson of MCC Pickens LLC in a 2007 appearance before the commission characterized the type of waste for the project as lumber, vinyl siding, concrete and brick, grass clippings, leaves, limbs and storm debris.

He also indicated that the lifespan of the project would be for 20-25 years” No mention was made of the disposal of coal combustion residuals — also known as CCR or coal ash — or the need for a landfill liner or plans to fill up the landfill quickly.

“Based in part on these representations by your company, the Planning Commission granted your land use request,” the letter to MCC Pickens LLC read.

“In your 2015 appearance before the Commission, Mr. Dan Moore of your company indicated that there were ‘no changes’ from the 2007 request, and estimated that the proposed landfill would serve the citizens of the county for ‘50 years or more,’” the letter read. “No mention was made of the disposal of CCR. When you were specifically asked by a Commissioner about the need for a liner, Mr. Moore stated that no liner would be required. Based on these representations by your company, the Planning Commission granted your renewed use request.”

According to the letter, planning commission members learned from media reports that the company planned to dispose of coal ash in the landfill and had filed an application for a variance with the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control that included plans for a significantly shorter life span of the facility — five years — and the installation of a liner to comply with Class III requirements. This came “despite the fact that you repeatedly characterized this landfill as a Class II facility in all of your communications with the Commission,” the letter to MCC Pickens LLC read.

“These are significant deviations from the information you provided to us in 2007 and 2015,” the letter read. “We consider these changes to be material alterations to the land use approved by the Commission, and constitute violations of your land use permit. Accordingly, pursuant to the authority granted under the Unified Development Standards Ordinance … and elsewhere, the Commission hereby suspends your land use permit for this project. You are directed to cease and desist any and all activities at the proposed site until such time as you have presented sufficient information to the Commission of your intention to strictly comply with our 2007 and 2015 land use approval and receive a renewal of your permit from the Commission.”

The commission also pointed out that any violation of a land-use approval is a misdemeanor with a punishment of a fine and/or jail time for each act or omission thereof. Each day of a continuing violation constitutes a separate offense.

The letter, which legally halts all work on the landfill, was sent on Monday with copies also sent to Pickens County Council, Sen. Larry Martin and Rep. Davey Hiott.