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Battle continues over Rock Hill landfill

A Piedmont-area construction debris disposal company whose plans for a York County landfill have been stalled in litigation, won a victory this month.

But York County, which has contested the plan since 2007, may have more chances to block it.

South Carolina's Court of Appeals ruled this month that the state's environmental agency was right in issuing C&D Management a permit to build a landfill in York County. The company operates five landfills in the Piedmont region.

The appeals court decision upheld an earlier ruling by the state's administrative law court on a lawsuit York County brought against the company and the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control to block the landfill permit.

The landfill was slated for land on Vernsdale Road in the City of Rock Hill. The landfill would take between 25,000 to 30,000 tons a year of construction and demolition debris, said Mike Griffin, who co-owns the company.

York County Councilman Curwood Chappell and some residents living near the proposed site fought the plan.

On Thursday, York County filed a petition for the appeals court to rehear the case and reconsider upholding the permit.

The debate, as outlined in the appeals court's decision, hinges on whether DHEC or the county had the authority to decide whether the landfill fit the county's waste management plan.

In 2005 C&D Management applied for a permit through DHEC to build the landfill. Shortly thereafter, while DHEC was processing the application, the county began revising its 1994 waste management plan.

When issuing landfill permits, DHEC must ensure projects comply with the county's waste management plan. State law requires such plans.

Before DHEC issued the permit, the county passed a moratorium on all new landfills and expansions not yet approved by DHEC, declaring them inconsistent with its 1994 waste management plan.

In February, DHEC granted C&D's permit , saying the county's ruling did not matter because only DHEC has the right to determine whether a project fits a waste management plan.

York County asked DHEC to review its decision, and when the agency's board of directors declined, the county sued DHEC and C&D. The suit went to an administrative law court.

With two of three judges agreeing, the administration law court upheld the permit, and the county asked an the state's appeals court to review the decision. This month the appeals court ruled in favor of DHEC and C&D, calling the emergency moratorium an "effort by the county to control DHEC's permitting decision."

The dissenting judge said the court undermined the county's authority to create its own management plans, granted it by state law, when siding with DHEC.

In the request for a rehearing filed Thursday, York County argued the same - that DHEC "usurped" the county's authority under state law "to have a say in the management of its solid waste."

If denied the rehearing, the county may ask for the state Supreme Court to weigh in, Michael Corley, an attorney representing the county, said Friday.

It's unclear when the appeals court will decide whether to grant the rehearing.

If denied, it's unclearwhether York County will appeal to the Supreme Court, York County Manager Jim Baker said Friday.

But Chappell, Thursday night, was already certain.

"There will be an appeal," he said.

For Griffin, a conclusion to an already long dispute would be welcome. He hopes to meet with the York County Council members, many who are new, he said.

In the meantime, "The five year battle is continuing," he said.