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Environmental agency appeals landfill expansion

November 19, 2020
BETHLEHEM — Last week, the Conservation Law Foundation filed an appeal against landfill expansion approval in Bethlehem. CLF representatives argue that the Department of Environmental Services' permit approval last month was unlawful because it does not satisfy the substantial public benefit criteria outlined in state laws.

North Country Environmental Services first applied for a 5.7 acre Stage VI expansion late last year. Casella withdrew the application in April after the corporation received advanced notification from DES that it would be denied as written.

"At this point, it's not clear how the DES reached a different decision on capacity requirements. Our position is that the majority of waste that would go to the landfill would be out of state waste," noted CLF attorney Heidi Trimarco.

The lawyer continued, "It's clear that there is no need for more landfills in New Hampshire. We don't need more landfills and we don't need bigger landfills to receive more out of state waste."

A similar case goes before the NH Supreme Court for the Turnkey landfill in Rochester this week. It questions the DES interpretation of RSA 149-M:11, III(a), relating to public benefit. According to the RSA, the definition of "public benefit" means protecting the health, economy and natural environment of New Hampshire. The court's decision may have an impact on what happens in Bethlehem, said the attorney.

Trimarco averred, "It hasn't been shown why the Bethlehem expansion is needed or how it would further the public good in NH. What we need is more recycling and composting."

According to the attorney, New Hampshire has a waste hierarchy that marks landfills as the least preferred option. She also noted that New Hampshire has a waste reduction goal of 40%, yet the DES has a history of granting landfill expansions.

"We're looking for more diversion, not further land filling. Land filling should be the last choice," stated the lawyer.

The CLF's formal appeal asserts that the approved permit was unlawful, arbitrary and capricious because the expansion provides no public benefit to NH residents. It remains unclear if expansion can occur in Bethlehem while there is an active appeal on the table or how long the appeal process may take.

Martin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
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