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NCES buys back landfill gas rights

April 21, 2011
BETHLEHEM- The partnership between North Country Environmental Services (NCES) and Commonwealth Resource Management Corporation to create a gas to energy project at Trudeau Road landfill has come to an end, but NCES has not given up plans to pursue such a plan on its own.

"I came to let the town know that the Commonwealth partnership is no longer," said landfill manager Kevin Roy.

What Roy calls a "divorce" between the two companies was finalized last week when NCES bought back all of the gas rights to the landfill. The decision to part ways came following a mediation session between the two parties, which have been embroiled in a legal battle since Commonwealth sued NCES for breach of contract.

The energy project would harness the methane gas byproduct that comes off the landfill at the equivalent of 600 barrels per day, and turn it into electricity. NCES' plan will be similar to the one proposed by Commonwealth, through its subsidiary, Muchmore. It will run at a capacity between 1.2 to 1.4 megawatts, and be sold into the Public Service of New Hampshire (PSNH) grid. Roy said it would be possible to have a larger scale project with greater returns, but that it would take more capital as the current energy infrastructure in Bethlehem would not be able to transfer that amount of energy up to four megawatts onto the grid. It would have to be run to a substation in Littleton or Whitefield first. Roy said a gas to energy project could have a 20 to 30-year lifespan dependent on such factors as waste decomposition.

"The industry is flourishing," said Roy of gas to energy production. "There's a lot of availability in grants. It's something NCES has done at all of its other sites."

Later in the meeting, the selectmen read a letter from Cheryl Young, formally withdrawing her objection to NCES' Title V application. Young's concerns were specifically about Muchmore's attempts to remove their project from the application, which concerns emissions from the landfill. NCES had similar concerns, said Roy, noting that, ultimately, Muchmore and NCES' needs clashed. While Muchmore put methane quality first, NCES' focus is on regulation compliance.

"At no point will gas to energy take priority over compliance," said Roy.

NCES will have to start the permitting process over, as all of the permits were issued to Muchmore, but Roy said he thinks the fact that the concerned parties have already asked questions concerning the mechanics of the project, will speed up the process. The project will have to go through local land use boards, as well as apply for an air permit at the state level. Roy said he hopes the project, which would fit into Governor Lynch's plan to have 25 percent renewable energy by the year 2025, will be up and running by next fall.

Former Selectman Richard Ubaldo spoke up in favor of the project.

"Apparently, we're wasting a lot of the energy coming out of that landfill. We've already lost a lot in legal fees," said Ubaldo, urging the selectmen not to miss an opportunity to benefit from the landfill. "I hope we can recognize the difference between negotiating and begging."

Martin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
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