City of Waco wins round in landfill lawsuit

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WACO, Texas – The City of Waco has won a round in a lawsuit filed in connection with plans for a new landfill.

The Tenth Court of Appeals has sent the case back to the original lower court with instructions to dismiss the suit filed by Citizens to Save Lake Waco.

The group had sued the city for breach of contract over a settlement agreement not to expand the current landfill site on Highway 84. That settlement had been reached in 1992 when the group had filed suit seeking to block work on the landfill that Waco had purchased from the City of Woodway.

Since then, the city had purchased first a 159-acre tract, then later an additional 133-acre tract adjoining the original landfill and had begun discussing the possibility of building a new landfill there.

Citizens to Save Lake Waco filed its original petition against Waco in January 2017 claiming breach of contract and seeking to permanently block the city from proceeding with its plans.

The lower court had ruled in favor of the citizens group and the City of Waco appealed to the Tenth Court of Appeals.

In their appeal, the city contended that the trial court erred because the city is immune from suit and because the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has exclusive jurisdiction on the issues in the case.

In the ruling written by Chief Justice Tom Gray, the appeals court also ruled that the claims raised by Citizens to Save Lake Waco are not “ripe” – meaning the issue they were suing over had not occurred yet.

The ruling stated that “there is no evidence in the record before us that the City has expanded the (existing) landfill or will expand it in the near future.”

It further stated that “it is uncertain that the city will apply for or receive a permit to expand the current landfill or to build a new landfill on the acreage acquired adjacent to the (existing) landfill in the near future.”

The ruling said that at most the group had a “potential injury,” not a “concrete injury.”

The ruling finally stated that on the record before the court, neither the Lake Waco group nor the city can demonstrate a reasonable likelihood that the claims “will soon ripen” and without more the claim of breach of contract and the request for a permanent injunction are not ripe.

In response to the ruling, Brad Holland, with Citizens to Save Lake Waco, said: “If the city does decide to reactivate the highway 84 site with a permit. They will face opposition not only from this court but from the Texas Department of Transportation, the FAA, the EPA, and the Army Core of Engineers.”

The City of Waco released a statement on Thursday morning after the decision was made.

The statement said:

“The Court has dismissed the plaintiff’s lawsuit. The Court did not rule on the merits of this case or on the City’s plea to the jurisdiction. The Court merely ruled on ripeness, meaning that the Court does not believe that the case is ready to be heard. While the City respects the Court’s decision, the City has an obligation to provide a new landfill before the current landfill reaches capacity and will continue to explore the best options to fulfill this responsibility.” 

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