Cooke Landfill Bill Clears Final Hurdles

DOVER – The House gave final approval Thursday to legislation that will cap the height of private industrial landfills at 140 feet and establish buffer zones around any future landfills.

As amended, House Bill 212 would address concerns raised by a proposal to increase the height of the West Minquadale landfill, located in Rep. Franklin Cooke and Senate President Pro Tempore David McBride’s districts.

Last year, residents and environmental advocates opposed a vertical expansion of the nearby landfill from 130 feet to 190 feet. New Castle County Council – the governmental body tasked with making local land-use decisions – voted to cap the height at 140 feet. County Executive Matt Meyer signed that ordinance into law in August 2019.

Rep. Cooke, who proposed a similar height cap in June, worked with Sen. McBride to amend the original legislation so that it matched New Castle County’s limits and added a buffer zone of at least one-quarter mile between any new landfill and any residence, school, park, hospital, residential community, and wetlands.

“Environmental justice means standing up for our communities when their health, safety, and quality of life is under threat. I was concerned when I heard that neighborhoods in my district like West Minquadale were facing the prospect of living next to a landfill almost 20 stories high,” said Rep. Cooke, D-New Castle West. “I’m proud that Sen. McBride and I were able to put forth a bill that not only protects the residents we’re privileged to represent, but provides environmental protections to ensure that any future landfills in the First State are buffered from areas the public uses or other environmentally sensitive areas.”

Rep. Cooke worked with the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control to craft final changes to the legislation, which were approved by both chambers on Thursday at Rep. Cooke’s request. Those amendments consolidated prior changes regarding surrounding buffers.

“Rep. Cooke is to be applauded for hearing the voices of concern in our community and stepping forward with a solution,” said Sen. McBride, D-Hawk’s Nest. “This bill matches that height restriction imposed by New Castle County and provides additional protections that will ensure future private landfills are not a risk to the health of their neighbors. I very much appreciate Rep. Cooke’s work on this issue and was delighted to assist him.”

The amended version of HB 212 passed both chambers unanimously and now goes to Governor John Carney for his signature.