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N.H. Senate Votes Down Bill To Ban Landfills Near State Parks

Map of Forest Lake State Park in N.H.
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The New Hampshire Senate on Thursday killed a bill that would have banned the construction of landfills within two miles of state parks.

The bill, House Bill 177, had passed the House of Representatives with broad support from residents and environmental groups, especially from neighbors of a proposed landfill in the North Country.

Waste management company Casella is proposing a new landfill in the town of Dalton, just next to Forest Lake State Park. This bill would sent the project back to the drawing board.

The Senate voted down the bill 14 to 8, with two Democrats joining Republicans in opposing it and two Republicans joining Democrats to support it. Two senators were excused from the vote.

Bill opponents like Republican Sen. Jim Gray of Rochester said the larger buffer zone would infringe on landowner rights, while parks are protected by other state rules.

Gray argued that modern landfills like the one in his city, Waste Management-owned Turnkey Landfill, are safer than those that have caused environmental impacts in the past.

"To compare it with some of these older facilities which are not built to the regulations that we have right now, it's inappropriate,” Gray said, after Democratic Sen. Tom Sherman referenced the former Coakley Landfill on the Seacoast.

The older Coakley and newer Turnkey in Rochester are both suspected sources of emerging toxins like PFAS chemicals, which only recently became state regulated.

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Republican Sen. Erin Hennessy of Littleton, near Dalton, supported the bill, arguing it wouldn’t block all future landfills – just ones that could affect pristine places that drive tourism.

“Our visitors come to New Hampshire for its fresh air and unique beauty, a beauty that our state parks help us preserve,” Hennessy said. “Siting a landfill next to a state park does not preserve this beauty.”

Casella spokesman Jeff Weld told NHPR that they're pleased the Senate killed the bill, which the company saw as "unnecessary from a regulatory, permitting, and public policy standpoint."

"This allows the permitting process [for the Dalton project] to move forward, and it is by no means an easy process, but we believe it is the correct process and one that serves the people of New Hampshire well," Weld said.

The state currently requires a 100-foot buffer between state parks and landfills.

This story was updated Friday to include a comment from Casella.

Annie has covered the environment, energy, climate change and the Seacoast region for NHPR since 2017. She leads the newsroom's climate reporting project, By Degrees.
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