Pickens County adds MRR parent company to coal ash countersuit

By: Ron Barnett, Greenville Online

Originally published: March 16, 2016

Pickens County has filed a third-party complaint in the coal ash lawsuit, adding MRR Southern, LLC, the parent company of MRR Pickens, as a defendant in the case, according to court documents.

Also, Circuit Judge Robin Stilwell, who denied MRR Pickens’ motion for a temporary injunction against the county, dismissed the company’s motion that he reconsider. He said the company had “mischaracterized” his ruling.

“Now therefore, having failed to be confused by the artful turn of a phrase, this Court respectfully denies Plaintiff’s Motion for Reconsideration,” the judge wrote.

An attorney for MRR did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The county and MRR have been at odds over whether the company had the legal right to dump coal ash in a landfill it planned to build near Liberty.

A new state law makes it illegal to dump coal ash from electrical utilities in landfills of the type landfill Pickens County allows.

But MRR officials have said they intend to challenge the law and the company is continuing to pursue its lawsuit against the county claiming it is owed $25 million in lost profits.

MRR Pickens sued the county and its Planning Commission for revoking its land use permit, and the county countersued — and with its latest filing, added MRR Southern, the Raleigh-based parent company, as a defendant.

The county argues that its agreement with the company was to allow a landfill for construction and demolition debris only. The company says the state Department of Health and Environmental Control allowed a “minor” change to its permit to allow it to install a liner that would enable it to put coal ash at the facility.

Officials of both MRR Southern and MRR Pickens were involved in “secretive, clandestine and underhanded meetings” with DHEC officials to get its permit changed without the knowledge of the county or the public, the county’s complaint alleges.

“The more we investigate what has occurred, the more involvement directly that we see by MRR Southern, including reports and letters submitted directly by MRR Southern and involvement by people employed by MRR Southern,” attorney Gary Poliakoff, who is representing the county, told The Greenville News.

He said the parent company shouldn’t be shielded from liability, even though it’s not a plaintiff in the original lawsuit.

“One could assume that that was their purpose in creating LLC’s for each separate facility,” he said.

MRR Southern appears to “directly control” MRR Pickens, the county’s complaint alleges.

The county is alleging damages including use of extensive resources, time and personnel in working with MRR toward the development of the type landfill the county wanted, and the loss of such a landfill “should MRR-P/S continue to violate its agreements and representations.”

The county would suffer additional damages if the company ever does deposit coal ash or other “special wastes” at the facility, the complaint alleges.