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Voters can now have final say on mega-landfills

Hooray for the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Last week the panel upheld a West Virginia law that requires a county referendum on the location of landfills that would take in more than 10,000 tons of trash or more a month. The voters now have the power to say, "not in my backyard."

In announcing the court ruling, state Attorney General Darrell McGraw said it gives state residents "the right to choose whether they want a megadump in their neighborhood."

The law was passed in the first Caperton administration and was promptly taken to court by a Pennsylvania outfit that runs landfills in Wetzel and Brooke counties. In 1997, a federal judge ruled the law unconstitutional, saying it violated federal interstate commerce laws.

The Legislature modified the law in 1998 and it was upheld late last month by the federal appeals court in Richmond, Va.

There was a great push in the early 1990s to develop these mega-landfills, including one in Barbour County. While the issue seems to have died down in recent years, it's nice to know that developers will have to jump through our hoops first before they can start importing all kinds of garbage from all over creation.

Bill Fox, an attorney for J.P. Mascaro & Sons, said his client will abide by the ruling, but he still believes the West Virginia law is unconstitutional. Fox interprets the ruling as saying only that Mascaro can't file anymore lawsuits.

However one interprets the ruling, it is clear that West Virginia residents have scored a victory. We now have a say in whether this state has landfills just for our own refuse or whether we become a dumping ground for the eastern part of the nation.

Today's editorial reflects the opinion of the Exponent editorial board, which is comprised of James G. Logue, Kevin S. Courtney, Patrick M. Martin, Matt Harvey and J. Cecil Jarvis.

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