The Bulletin Board

Stricter landfill siting criteria now depends on veto override

By: - June 29, 2022 2:55 pm
Forest Lake

Residents of Dalton and surrounding communities raised concerns that pollutants from a landfill proposed by Casella Waste Management could contaminate Forest Lake. (Amanda Gokee | New Hampshire Bulletin)

A veto override is the last chance for a bill that would establish new setbacks between landfills and water bodies after Gov. Chris Sununu vetoed the measure last week.

Proponents of the bill believe it has enough bipartisan support to advance without the governor’s signature. The bill passed 16-8 in the Senate and on a voice vote in the House, and it will require a two-thirds majority in both chambers to overcome the governor’s veto and become law.

“Our team is really focused on the override at this point, and we’re feeling confident that we’ll prevail there,” said Tom Tower, a board member of the North Country Alliance for Balanced Change and a supporter of House Bill 1454.

If the bill doesn’t pass this year, advocates say they’ll return next session to try again to pass stricter regulations.

Currently, state law requires landfills to be at least 200 feet from the nearest body of water. But when Casella Waste Management proposed building a new landfill in Dalton on land abutting Forest Lake State Park, some residents raised concerns that pollutants from the landfill could contaminate the lake. The company has since withdrawn its permit applications, although it plans to resubmit them in the future, Vice President Joe Fusco told NHPR this month.

HB 1454 would require landfills to be far enough from a body of water that it would take five years for groundwater to reach the body of water. This would allow enough time to detect contaminants and intervene before state waterways become polluted, according to proponents of the measure, who say this is a statewide issue.

In a veto message, Sununu said he opposed the bill because it would likely hamper the development of landfills in the state, which he said could lead to higher costs for transporting trash out of state.

“New Hampshire’s landfill regulations are already rigorous and robust,” he said in the statement.

Proponents of the measure took Sununu to task. 

Adam Finkel, a resident of Dalton who worked on the language of the bill, said of the 44 pages of landfill regulations only two address siting a landfill. And that language, Finkel said, is archaic and unprotective.

Tower said proponents of HB 1454 estimate it would prevent landfills on only about 15 percent of the state’s landmass. Those estimates are based on numbers from the Department of Environmental Services.

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Amanda Gokee
Amanda Gokee

Amanda Gokee is the New Hampshire Bulletin’s energy and environment reporter. She previously reported on these issues at VTDigger. Amanda grew up in Vermont and is a graduate of Harvard University. She received her master’s degree in liberal studies, with a concentration in creative writing, from Dartmouth College. Her work has also appeared in the LA Review of Books and the Valley News.