“When 80 to 85 percent of the (municipal) budget is created by the landfill, it’s very hard to go back to where we don’t have the landfill.”

— Thomas Lukasewicz, council president in Throop, which hosts 60 percent of Keystone Sanitary Landfill

It took 14 years and 400 men to carve four American presidents into the face of Mount Rushmore. The subjects were chosen by master sculptor Gutzon Borglum, who was born a Mormon in Idaho and died a national hero in Chicago.

Mount Trashmore would rise in Dunmore and Throop over a half-century to a height three times the size of the national monument in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The faces best suited to adorn its filthy facade have selected themselves. They will be dead long before the mammoth monument to their weakness reaches its sorry summit.

No one will see them as heroes — except maybe Louis DeNaples, who also will be safely six feet under when the towering legacy of his outsized influence is still fouling the region’s air, water and reputation.

Mr. DeNaples, president of Keystone Sanitary Landfill, is one step closer to gaining approval for a gargantuan expansion that will cement Northeast Pennsylvania’s reputation as the Dumping Ground of the East. Suggested tourist T-shirt: “I got dumped at Mount Trashmore.”

Last week, Dunmore Borough Council approved a new agreement with Keystone that could pay the borough nearly $200 million over 50 years. A majority of council members claim to oppose the expansion, but only one – Tim Burke — had the courage to vote against the agreement. The final decision will be made by the state Department of Environmental Protection, but many see the Dunmore pact as a precursor to approval.

Keystone has been paying Dunmore — which hosts 40 percent of the landfill — the minimum fee of 41 cents per ton dumped since 1999. The new deal naturally seems lucrative to some.

Factor in 50 years of inflation, however, and the old pact is a jackpot. The new agreement -- which freezes its terms eternally at today’s values -- tops out at $1.50 per ton in 2017, with a penny added annually for the life of the landfill. At 3 percent inflation, $1.50 will be worth about 34 cents in 2065. Like the expansion itself, the agreement is a bad bargain not just for Dunmore, but for every living soul in Northeast Pennsylvania and generations yet to be born.

Just don’t ask the region’s elected officials to stand up and say so.

In an assignment slightly less futile than bagging Bigfoot, Times-Tribune staff writer Kyle Wind stalked local, state and federal officials for weeks, trying to get them to take a stand on the most important public safety, health and economic issue since the region’s “public servants” stood by and let the coal barons do whatever damage they pleased.

The coal barons and their legislative enablers are long dead, but their toxic legacy still poisons this valley. What have we learned in the century since? Not much, apparently. The results of Kyle’s quest can charitably be called “Profiles in Cowardice.”

“I would have serious concerns about an expansion of that scope,” said state Rep. Mike Carroll, D-118, Avoca. “An expansion of that scale deserves a complete and thorough environmental review.”

This is a powerful member of the state House, bleating the screaming obvious and hoping it passes for profundity. Any serious person would have concerns about the expansion, and it can’t happen without environmental review. Mr. Carroll essentially said nothing, and somehow eclipsed fellow lawmakers who live closer to Keystone.

State Sen. John Blake, D-22, Archbald, was practically installed by convicted felon and former Sen. Bob Mellow, who served Mr. DeNaples for decades. Mr. Blake said: “It would not be appropriate to interject my office between a private company and a regulatory agency.”

TRANSLATION: “It’s up to DEP. Please excuse me. I haven’t kissed Mr. DeNaples’ ring in over an hour.”

State Rep. Sid Michaels Kavulich, D-114, Taylor, said he did not have an opinion on the expansion yet. He promised to “monitor the proposal” and make sure DEP did its due diligence.

“The environment and the safety of the people is paramount,” Mr. Kavulich said.

Way to go out on a limb, Sid. That’s like saying, “Puppies and kittens are cute, and it’s important not to eat them.”

FUN FACT: It is currently legal to kill and eat dogs and cats in Pennsylvania. In its latest do-nothing session, the GOP-controlled Legislature failed to pass a ban because it would also outlaw pigeon shoots. The National Rifle Association stood in proud, patriotic defense of the brutal slaughter of defenseless living things. GOP lawmakers sat down and shut up, lest they get their wings clipped.

“If you want my vote, you’ll have to buy it from my warm, living hands.”

State Rep. Marty Flynn, D-113, Scranton, is to be commended because he actually took a position. He is for the landfill expansion, and emphatically said so. I disagree with him, but respect his candor. He took a stand, even if it is atop a 400-foot-high mountain of out-of-state garbage.

Mr. Flynn’s best Facebook friend and Twitter pal, State Rep. Frank Farina, D-115, Jessup, was less forthcoming. A landscaper before he became a lawmaker, he will be Dunmore’s representative come January. It took 10 calls for comment to receive this emailed response:

“As a state representative I have to support our laws and regulations as they were written by our prior legislators for all my constituents. These regulations were formulated after all facts and figures were gathered from experts and written into law.”

TRANSLATION: “I used to push a lawnmower for a living. LOL!” #suckstobeyou

If you want to get anywhere in Northeast Pennsylvania politics, it’s best not to cross the Man on Mill Street. Mr. DeNaples is often called a kingmaker, but installing serfs is his specialty. Take Corey O’Brien, who along with fellow Lackawanna County Commissioner Jim Wansacz has declined to comment on the expansion. Commissioner Pat “Cheese” O’Malley called Saturday to say he opposes the expansion because of its size and potential impact on future generations.

Mr. O’Brien says he has a conflict of interest because a relative works at the landfill. “Relative” sounds like a cousin or in-law, but he’s talking about his father. The situation carries no inherent conflict of interest. Mr. O’Brien simply doesn’t want to anger Dad’s boss. Any conflict belongs to Mr. O’Brien alone. He was elected to serve the public interest, a full-time job he shouldn’t have sought if he can’t set private concerns aside when big issues arise.

DEP will make the final call on the expansion, but that’s no excuse for officials who swore oaths to serve their constituents to sit quietly by as the public interest is sacrificed to the private interest of a single man and his family.

Throop Councilwoman Charlene Tomasovitch epitomized this bystander mentality when she said of the landfill expansion: “DEP is not going to let something that’s harmful happen.”

There are some thirsty people in Dimock who would disagree.

CHRIS KELLY, the Times-Tribune columnist, isn’t just talking trash. Contact the writer: kellysworld@timesshamrock.com, @cjkink on Twitter. Read his daily blog at blogs.thetimes-tribune.com/kelly