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N.H. Solid Waste Council hearing closes on Bethlehem landfill expansion appeal

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Casella
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New Hampshire’s Solid Waste Council heard closing arguments Tuesday on an appeal of a permit for a landfill expansion in Bethlehem that state regulators issued in 2020.

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The council’s decision isn’t finalized yet. Members of the council expressed concern about parts of the permit during deliberations, but in a series of votes, the council determined that the Department of Environmental Services acted reasonably in issuing the permit.

Heidi Trimarco, a lawyer with the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF), argued state regulators did not meet the criteria that are necessary to show a landfill would have a substantial public benefit.

Trimarco argued that DES acted unlawfully and unreasonably by issuing a permit that did not satisfy any of the criteria that legally must be met to find a landfill provides substantial public benefit – that the landfill will fulfill a need for capacity to get rid of waste generated in New Hampshire, that the proposed facility can help achieve the state’s solid waste goals and hierarchy of disposal and that the facility can achieve the goals of the state’s solid waste plan.

Lawyers for the landfill owners, North Country Environmental Services (NCES), said state regulators had not acted unlawfully or unreasonably in issuing the permit for expanding the Bethlehem landfill.

In response to CLF’s argument that state regulators acted unreasonably, attorney Cooley Arroyo said, “nothing could be further from the truth in describing the care and attention DES devoted to its analysis in this matter.”

The lawyer representing DES said the Conservation Law Foundation had not met the burden of proof necessary to show the permit was unlawful or unreasonable.

The state’s 19-year-old solid waste plan was central to the hearing, which Trimarco argued was a main reason the decision to permit NCES’s landfill was unreasonable.

“It is inherently unreasonable to rely on data and planning from 2003 to issue landfill permits in 2020. The plan is grossly outdated,” she said.

A bill currently before lawmakers would prohibit regulators from issuing permits for new landfills until the solid waste plan is updated.

“DES is prioritizing the permitting of landfills over solid waste management planning,” Trimarco said in an interview with NHPR. “[DES] needs to engage in the necessary planning first before issuing these permits.”

The council’s decision on the appeal won’t be official until 100 days from now, according to their procedure.

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