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N.H. lawmakers uphold veto on landfill siting rules

Supporters of a bill to change the way landfills are sited in New Hampshire rallied in front of the State House, encouraging lawmakers to override Gov. Chris Sununu's veto.
Mara Hoplamazian
Supporters of a bill to change the way landfills are sited in New Hampshire rallied in front of the State House on Thursday, Sept. 15, encouraging lawmakers to override Gov. Chris Sununu's veto.

A campaign to override Gov. Chris Sununu’s veto of a bill that would have changed the process for siting a landfill in New Hampshire was quashed Thursday, as state lawmakers gathered to reconsider bills rejected last session.

Right now, state law requires landfills to be 200 feet from a body of water. But the bill would have changed that, requiring landfills be built far enough away that any groundwater they contaminated would take 5 years to reach the water. Supporters of the effort say the current law is outdated and could harm people and the environment.

With a two-thirds majority, the House voted to override the veto, drawing cheers in the chamber. But minutes later, Sununu’s decision was upheld in the Senate.

When the bill was heard by the Senate in May, GOP Senator Kevin Avard said it was targeted at a particular site, where Casella proposed a new landfill near Forest Lake in Dalton.

Many supporters of the original bill organized to overrule the veto, gathering at a rally in front of the State House ahead of the day’s sessions. Muriel Robinette, a geologist and environmental consultant, spoke at the event.

“The bill helps us because it gives us time,” she said. “Often we talk about the contamination and as it moves along the soil and down into the groundwater. There's a time frame in which it takes to hit the bodies of water that we're concerned about. We need to be able to react within that time frame.”

Following the Senate’s vote to uphold the veto, Wayne Morrison, who helps run the North Country Alliance for Balanced Change, which has been supporting the effort to change landfill rules, said he was disappointed in the result but encouraged that many legislators seemed to understand the risk landfills pose to water sources.

“This issue’s not going away, and we’re not going away,” he said. “We expect to file a new bill. We’re going to be right back at it, because the people of New Hampshire and our environment need this protection.”

Mara Hoplamazian reports on climate change, energy, and the environment for NHPR.

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