A company trying to build a compost plant near Hinkley said they are enduring financial hardship due to six years of litigation with environmental groups.
Nursery Products, LLC has been trying to build a compost recycling plant near Hinkley for six years but have not been able to start building as they are constantly wrapped up in court with the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group. The Center for Biological Diversity is partnered with HelpHinkley.org, a group dedicated to fighting environmental issues on behalf of Hinkley residents.
"We haven't made money in six years," said Chris Seney, Nursery Products director of operations. "Six years ago we started plans for this facility and we won't make money until we start operations."
On Nov. 1, Jeff Meberg, president of Nursery Products, filed a court declaration asking for an extension on a $100,000 payment due Dec. 31 to the Center for Biological Diversity, court documents reveal. If extended, the payment would have to be paid by Feb. 28, 2012. The payment is a part of fees and costs awarded to the Center for Biological Diversity by the court after the group won numerous lawsuits over the company's incomplete environmental impact report.
Bob Conaway, a member of HelpHinkley.org, said he's concerned Nursery Products cannot properly operate a plant if they are struggling financially.
"If Nursery Products can't pay their legal bills now, is it a stretch to imagine they can ever run this right," Conaway said.
But Seney said he doesn't foresee any financial issue once the company can start building. He said the facility is already fully permitted and loans to build are easy to secure.
"Once we're up and running, there's no issue running the facility," Seney said.
Norm Diaz, chairman of HelpHinkley.org, said he doesn't see how Nursery Products will be able to afford the court payment in February if they can't afford it now. He also disagreed that the company had all permits necessary for building.
Nursery Products plans to build an 80-acre facility that, once constructed, will accept 400,000 tons of waste product per year — half biosolids, or treated human waste, and half green waste, such as tree trimmings and grass clippings.
Seney said if the facility were constructed it could provide waste disposal to the City of Barstow for almost half the current costs.
Conaway said he's concerned about building a human waste facility upwind from Barstow in an area that is known to be very windy.
The facility has already had wind and odor issues assessed in the environmental impact report. Those issues have been reviewed and approved by both the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors as well as a superior court judge. Seney said this facility will be the most remote compost facility out of 100 in California.
"I live in Victorville just four miles from a compost site and I never have an issue with smell," Seney said.
Diaz said the facility will also be the largest open-air compost facility in the state.
The next hearing in the case between Nursery Products and the Center for the Biological Diversity will be held at 8:30 a.m. Dec. 12 in San Bernardino.
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