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City asks Sierra Club for another nominee

'They owe me a retraction and an apology,' environmentalist says

Posted: June 8, 2009 10:12 p.m.
Updated: June 9, 2009 4:55 a.m.
One of Santa Clarita's prominent environmentalists will be kept from a seat on a committee charged with finding a site for a recycling facility because of her suits related to SCV development.

The City Council is expected tonight to sign off on the recommended members for a site selection committee for a long-overdue materials recovery facility (or MRF, pronounced "murf").

This spring, the local chapter of the Sierra Club recommended Lynne Plambeck as its representative on the committee.

On May 24, City Manager Ken Pulskamp sent a letter to Dave Morrow, chair of the club's Santa Clarita Valley chapter, stating that Plambeck has a conflict of interest, "due to previous lawsuits ... rought against the city, one related to the recycling facility. ... The city respectfully requests the Sierra Club re-submit an alternative designee."

Plambeck is president of Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment (SCOPE), which has filed numerous lawsuits related to development in the valley.

In fall 2006, SCOPE appealed the Planning Commission's approval of a MRF to be located in the planned Gate-King Industrial Park in Newhall.

The recycling center has since been removed from the Gate-King plans.

SCOPE had filed a lawsuit concerning the Gate-King project's environmental impacts.

"We think that she has a conflict of interest because she has a history of suing the city and/or opposing anything development-related, including the MRF," city spokeswoman Gail Ortiz said. "We're looking for people that have an open mind and a willingness to serve their community."

The Sierra Club responded to Pulskamp's letter by recommending Morrow, Ortiz said. "It was reasonable," said Henry Schultz, vice-chair of the club's local chapter. "I don't think the city would have put it in print if it hadn't been (a conflict of interest)."

Plambeck said the letter was unexpected.

"I was startled by the letter," she said Monday. "I just really feel that they owe me a retraction and an apology."

A resident of the valley for more than 30 years, Plambeck has been a member of the Sierra Club for nearly 25 years, and in 2007 received the club's Special Service award, for her work related to the Santa Clara River.

"I'm pretty knowledgeable about the issues," she said. "I think the committee is (being) formed to say yes to what the city wants to do."

If forming the committee wasn't an act of lip service, she said, the city would pursue committee members who know the issues.

The City Council approved in February the formation of a site-selection committee for a 170,000-square-foot MRF to be built by Burrtec Waste Industries, Inc.

The city needs the recycling plant in order to meet the state requirement to recycle at least 50 percent of its trash - a mandate that could swell to 75 percent in the coming years.

Public works director Robert Newman has estimated it will take three to six months to develop a list of potential sites.

While Burrtec will be responsible for constructing and operating the MRF, the city will own the facility.


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