- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 7, 2015

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - The South Dakota Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday on whether Fall River County properly approved a company’s plan to take in and clean oil-contaminated soil near Edgemont.

The justices will issue a written opinion at a later date on the issue, which some residents say was wrong because county commissioners kept them out of the process.

The commission approved the High Plains Resources LLC soil farm - in which it would take contaminated soil delivered to the site and repeatedly turn it over to gradually remove toxins - in March 2014 but later sought to rescind its decision because residents were not given proper notice that the issue was being considered. Residents also complained that a single printed copy of the ordinance was available for commissioners to share, and no copies were made available to the two residents in attendance.

The question came up again in June 2014, with the commission giving the public a chance to comment before rescinding its March resolution and passing one that was nearly identical. Unhappy residents collected petition signatures to refer the resolution to last November’s ballot.

The votes were never tallied, and the case made its second appearance before the state’s high court Wednesday.



High Plains attorney Brad Gordon argued again that commissioners did not have the authority to rescind the original resolution, saying the only instance in which a commission can do so is if there is a change in the location, size or purpose of the facility.

Gordon made that same argument to Circuit Judge Robert Mandel in October 2014, and Mandel agreed, directing that the referendum votes should not be counted.

But Fall River County State’s Attorney James Sword appealed Mandel’s decision to the state Supreme Court, which issued an Election Day ruling that allowed the county to count the ballots.

“Why didn’t you count the votes?” Justice Glen Severson asked Sword on Wednesday.

“That is where the law and politics kind of ran into each other,” Sword responded.

“We don’t deal with politics. We deal with law,” Severson said. “Why didn’t you count the votes?”

Sword told the justice that he wanted to, but that commissioners decided instead to pursue the normal channels of an appeal.

Justice Steven Zinter told Gordon that he was unsure what remedy the county is seeking, to which Sword responded he’d like the original ordinance voided based on violations of the state’s open meetings law and open records law.

Regardless of the outcome, High Plains still needs to secure permits from state environmental officials in order to create the soil farm.

___

Follow Dirk Lammers on Twitter at https://twitter.com/ddlammers

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide