Attorney asks DES to suspend review of latest Casella landfill application

According to state law, DES must determine whether a proposed facility provides a “substantial public benefit” based on several criteria.

According to state law, DES must determine whether a proposed facility provides a “substantial public benefit” based on several criteria. Amanda Gokee / New Hampshire Bulletin


NH Bulletin

Published: 12-02-2023 4:47 PM

An attorney representing opponents of Casella Waste Systems’ proposed landfill in Dalton has requested the Department of Environmental Services suspend its processing of the application.

Amy Manzelli, of Concord-based BCM Environmental & Land Law, penned a letter to DES on Tuesday on behalf of North Country Alliance for Balanced Change, a nonprofit that has been fighting against the proposal to build a new landfill in the North Country, next to Forest Lake State Park. Manzelli argued that because of cases currently before the New Hampshire Supreme Court and DES’ own pending solid waste rules process, the latest application filed by Granite State Landfill LLC (GSL), a subsidiary of Casella Waste Systems, should be put on hold.

After withdrawing its applications last year, Casella resubmitted an application for a solid waste facility permit in October, a new chapter in the saga that has persisted for about five years and sparked a statewide conversation about solid waste.

In her letter to DES, Manzelli first argued that cases currently pending before the state Supreme Court will interpret a law the department will need to use in processing the application: the public benefit test.

According to state law, DES must determine whether a proposed facility provides a “substantial public benefit” based on several criteria, including the short- and long-term need for the facility. Provisions of the public benefit test are currently subject to legal challenges, including two appeals to a Waste Management Council decision.

“The outcomes of these appeals could drastically affect the interpretation of RSA 149-M:11 and, consequently, the application of the public benefit test to solid waste applications,” Manzelli wrote. “As such, the Department should suspend GSL’s application until the law surrounding the public benefit test is settled. It would be a waste of department time and resources to begin processing an application when a significant portion of that process — the application of the public benefit test — could completely change in the midst of the department’s consideration.”

Second, Manzelli pointed to DES’ own mandatory solid waste rulemaking process currently in motion. The state’s solid waste management rules expire next year, and the agency has embarked on a public process to revise them, prior to the formal rulemaking process that has yet to begin.

In October, for example, the department released a draft proposal of changes to its landfill requirements, the most significant being a required setback from bodies of water that would be more than double the current footage – a point of contention the state Legislature was unable to reach a consensus on last session.

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“Given that many of the new, revised, and readopted rules will likely address public health, safety, and welfare and the landfill will far, far outlive the current rules, the department should suspend the application until the new rules are adopted and it can assess the application under those rules,” Manzelli wrote.

Jeff Weld, a spokesperson for Casella, said in a statement, “We are confident that NCABC’s request is not supported by New Hampshire law, and that the review of our project applications will move forward. This is an attempt to distract the public from having real conversations on the need for the project and to delay critical infrastructure development for people in New Hampshire, while gaining media attention for their cause. We look forward to future discussions with the people of New Hampshire and regulatory agencies based on the merits of the proposed Granite State Landfill and recycling facility, and see no reason to waste time and resources on this kind of grandstanding.”

DES did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.