Under the Ohio Revised Code, waste districts in Ohio are permitted to create rules which go beyond OEPA rules and oversight. To this end, the Hamilton County Solid Waste Policy Committee wrote its first set of rules for Hamilton County. These rules were then vetted by a lawyer who is a solid waste expert. The rules were subsequently passed by the Hamilton County Commissioners at their meeting on December 16, 2021. Similar rules are in effect in 21 other solid waste districts in Ohio.
This set of rules allowed for public participation and civic engagement as all aspects of permitting would be handled locally, in Hamilton County. The rules addressed things not considered under the OEPA permitting process, such as odors, traffic, noise pollution, air pollution and impacts on waterways.
As soon as the rules were passed, Rumpke, one of the largest solid waste companies in the country, filed suit against the County Commissioners. The ensuing negotiations continued behind closed doors until October 13, 2022. At the end of this period, the County Commissioners voted to rescind the original rules and approve new rules written as part of the lawsuit settlement.
The new rules do not consider the extra things, such as odors and traffic. They shift the power of the Solid Waste Policy Committee, to one person — that of the Director of the Hamilton County Environmental Services. The Director now has the discretion to notify or not notify the Policy Committee about landfill applications. The public will not, therefore, have the opportunity to comment on applications in any meaningful way.
However, according to an attorney from the county prosecutor’s office, there will be “opportunities for public participation before a facility obtains a permit.”
The final decision for permits will be made by the Hamilton County Commissioners.