Panel wants more opinions before conducting investigation of Juniper Ridge

The Juniper Ridge landfill is seen in an aerial photo on April 6, 2012.
R.W. Estela
The Juniper Ridge landfill is seen in an aerial photo on April 6, 2012.
By Nick McCrea, BDN Staff
Posted April 10, 2012, at 5:30 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — After a history lesson on Juniper Ridge Landfill and some of the controversy behind it, the Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee on Tuesday decided to get more comments before deciding whether to take a deeper look into the operations of the landfill.

The committee will ask a group of legislators — some of whom signed a letter sent to the state Office of Program Evaluation & Government Accountability outlining questions about Casella Waste Systems Inc. and how it runs the state-owned Old Town landfill — to attend its next meeting in order to get a better idea of what their concerns are.

The letter asked OPEGA to investigate what percentage of waste going into the landfill originates across state borders, whether Casella is following Maine’s waste management hierarchy, and whether there has been a misuse of public funds related to Casella’s operation of the landfill, among other questions.

OPEGA Director Beth Ashcroft said during Tuesday’s Government Oversight Committee meeting that her office has investigations scheduled through the fall and would have to make adjustments to the schedule to fit in any added tasks in the near future.

Ashcroft suggested a different approach to investigating the questions raised in the letter. She said it might be more effective “to look at the entities who are making sure Casella is in compliance” rather than spending OPEGA time and resources on a direct investigation of Casella.

The committee also will seek opinions from the Juniper Ridge Landfill Advisory Committee, which is made up of residents from Old Town, Alton and the Penobscot Indian Nation.

Environment and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Sen. Thomas Saviello, R-Wilton, briefly stopped by the Government Oversight Committee meeting to address questions related to Juniper Ridge.

“My recommendation to you is that there are other bigger issues for you right now than this,” Saviello told the oversight committee members.

Saviello said that he believed Casella was operating the landfill within the rules laid out in state statute and in its host community agreement with Old Town. He argued that the bulk of complaints about the landfill came from residents in Old Town, Alton and the surrounding area who will have the chance to provide their comments as Casella continues its effort to expand Juniper Ridge Landfill.

Saviello said he sympathized with members of the public who were upset about the expansion and the state’s decision to revise its definition of “in-state waste” because the change was made “with little public input.”

The committee will revisit the landfill issue during a meeting scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. Friday, May 25.

http://bangordailynews.com/2012/04/10/news/augusta/panel-wants-more-opinions-before-conducting-investigation-of-juniper-ridge/ printed on August 21, 2014