CONCORD — Waste management will be the focus of the New Hampshire Legislature this week, with public hearings on extended producer responsibility and the location of new landfills on Tuesday.
January 18 will be a marathon of public hearings on landfills at the House Environment and Agriculture Committee. At 10:45 a.m. there will be a public hearing on HB 1420. The bill would block any new landfill permits — including for Casella’s proposed landfill in the North Country town of Dalton, NH — until the state is updating its solid waste management plan, which is almost 20 years old. The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services is concerned that, as written, the bill would block permits for all waste management facilities, including transfer stations and composting processors, said Michael Wimsatt, director of the agency’s waste management division.
At 11:15 a.m., the discussion will turn to HB 1049, which would establish a committee to study landfill siting criteria as well as ways to reduce waste streams and, by extension, the pressure to build and expand landfills. Finally, at 1:00 p.m., there will be a public hearing on HB 1454 to prohibit the siting of a landfill on a groundwater protection site as well as nearby lakes and rivers. The bill would prohibit the construction of landfills within five years of the distance between groundwater and surface water. The NHDES has identified several issues that could arise during the implementation of the bill.
“Because of the complexity of hydrology, it’s not easy to understand what it is,” Wimsatt said. And calculating it might require access to private property.
Interest in solid waste grew after Casella Waste Systems proposed a new landfill near Forest Lake State Park in Dalton, sparking protests and controversy. The NHDES, which authorizes the new landfills, requested more information in June after receiving Casella’s first request. Landfill capacity in New Hampshire won’t be an issue as long as landfills continue to be expanded or built, Wimsatt said.
“Situating a new landfill is really difficult,” said Marc Morgan, solid waste manager at the Lebanon landfill. “Politically, with the community, there’s just a host of issues.”
Meanwhile, New Hampshire is expected to have a new solid waste management plan by October 1.
“Other states are going all out to reduce their waste and close landfills, and we haven’t updated our solid waste management plan since 2003, so we have a lot of work to do,” Karen Ebel said. , D-New London, during a hearing on Dec. 13, as reported by InDepthNH. She chairs the Solid Waste Working Group, a new body that is working with NHDES on the new plan.
Regulations from other states affect New Hampshire. Massachusetts, for example, has declining landfill capacity. Massachusetts customers then have to look for out-of-state landfill space, which clogs up all of New Hampshire’s private landfills that have an unlimited service area.
“What’s happening in this situation is that Massachusetts waste is competing with New Hampshire waste for that landfill space,” said Morgan, who also sits on the solid waste task force. “It’s not just that the elimination capacity is decreasing,” he added.
If nonresidents are willing to pay high prices to dispose of their waste, it can increase costs for New Hampshire customers, which include municipalities, waste holders and anyone else who generates waste, Morgan explained. .
But Lebanon’s landfill is a public facility with a limited service area, so the 22 Upper Valley towns in its limited service are protected from rising disposal costs, Morgan said. And he added that the landfill has room for another 60 to 80 years of waste.
Other bills on the agenda aim to reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfills. Rep. Lee Oxenham, D-Plainfield, is one of three Democratic Reps. who have sponsored a bill, HB 1111, that would establish a commission to review extended producer responsibility in New Hampshire.
Under Extended Producer Responsibility, companies that produce and sell plastic and other waste provide financial or physical support for their disposal. The model could relieve pressure on municipalities struggling with the cost of waste management, say the bill’s sponsors.
“The purpose of the Extended Producer Responsibility Bill is to keep things out of the landfill. You start on the other side of the process,” Rep. Oxenham said. The commission would bring experts to the Statehouse and raise awareness of a new concept, she added.
At 9 a.m., the House Environment and Agriculture Committee will hold a public hearing on HB 1111.
Another bill until this session, HB 1337, would establish a committee to consider a tax on manufacturers based on the cost of disposing of their products. But the Oxenham rep prefers HB 1111. “If you just start with a tax, you already have a real headwind to work against,” she said.
Another public hearing at 2:30 p.m. on January 18 will address a “bottle bill,” HB 1652, to incentivize the recycling of beverage containers. Customers would pay a 10 cent deposit on each beverage container and could redeem their 10 cents at retailers or recycling centers. In past legislative sessions, bottle bills have failed.
“A lot more people are aware that we are filling up our landfills and there are costs to not creating a circular economy,” the Oxenham rep said.
But NHDES, the agency that would implement the bill, has some concerns, although it does not have a position on the bill.
“The resources we currently have are not sufficient to implement the responsibilities required by the bill,” explained Michael Nork, environmental analyst at NHDES. The bill would require significant rulemaking and staff time at NHDES, and the bill does not provide the agency with the resources to execute it.
Tuesday’s hearings will be held in Room 301-303 of the Legislative Office Building. They will also be broadcast on the YouTube channel “NH House of Representatives Committee Streaming”.
Claire Potter is a member of the Report for America body. She can be reached at [email protected] or 603-727-3242.