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Citizen Group Files Suit Against California City’s Waste Privatization

A citizen group in Fresno, Calif., has filed a suit challenging the city’s privatizing of its waste collection, claiming inadequate research on the environmental impact.

The group, Fresnans for Clean Air (FRESCA), claims in the suit that Fresno did not do an adequate project description of the areas impacted by the contract, did not do an environmental impact report and failed to provide for proper public comment.

“The trucks will be driving a lot farther away,” says Dee Barnes, one of the FRESCA members, in an interview. She called the council’s approval of the measure and its ignoring of citizen concerns “obscene.”

The city in December voted to privatize its waste collection service and award the contract to Fresno-based Mid-Valley Disposal Inc., a move the city said would save it $2.5 million annually. The contract is scheduled to begin in March.

Barnes says FRESCA has no issues with Mid-Valley Disposal itself.

The city of Fresno issued a statement on the suit. “The city is prepared to address each issue raised by its residential solid waste labor unions and is confident the franchise process undertaken by the city was within its charter and statutory authority. The proposal essentially maintains services involving the same routes and same trucks, although at lesser rates to the public.”

Barnes is also president of the Fresno City Employees Association, but she says her involvement is as a citizen and has nothing to do with the union.

FRESCA is asking for the city council to rescind its “rushed” privatization ordinance, or full comply with the California Environmental Quality Act.

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