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Board to decide whether to overrule state agency on Juniper Ridge Landfill expansion

R.W. Estela | BDN
R.W. Estela | BDN
Aerial photo of Juniper Ridge landfill in Old Town on April 6, 2012.
By Nick McCrea, BDN Staff

AUGUSTA, Maine — After an appeal from a nearby resident, the Board of Environmental Protection will decide in July whether to overrule the Department of Environmental Protection decision that backed a partial expansion of Juniper Ridge Landfill.

The appeal by Ed Spencer, who lives less than two miles from the Casella Waste Systems-operated landfill, was accepted by the BEP last week. He will make his case in opposition to DEP’s public benefit determination from earlier this year that favored a 9.35 million cubic yard expansion. Casella wanted to expand by 21.9 million cubic yards.

Spencer, Charles Leithiser of Old Town and Sam Hunting of Orono each appealed to the BEP, arguing that they would be “injured” and harmed by the expansion.

BEP Chairwoman Susan Lessard found Leithiser and Hunting didn’t have standing to appeal because they failed to show they were “aggrieved persons,” largely because their homes are farther from the landfill, BEP executive analyst Cynthia Bertocci said in April.

Lessard determined Spencer did have standing because he lives near the landfill and she agreed with Spencer’s claim that his property and quality of life might be harmed by odors and noise from Juniper Ridge.

The full board backed Lessard’s decision during a board meeting on May 3.

The State Planning Office, which owns Juniper Ridge, and Casella have 30 days from the May 3 meeting to submit a response to Spencer’s appeal now that he has been found to have standing.

Spencer said he agrees with most of what the DEP found in its public benefit determination document but challenges the finding in favor of a limited expansion because he doesn’t see any urgent need for more landfill capacity. He also cited the Legislature’s support of a bill that would allow the Norridgewock landfill to expand and new fees that will be imposed on certain types of waste going into the landfill as further reasons to take a wait-and-see approach.

Spencer said he wants the state to “take a more patient look at what’s going on with waste in Maine.”

Casella has a 30-year contract to provide waste disposal space for the state and is running out of capacity at a faster rate than originally expected. Casella representatives have said they need more room.

Assistant Attorney General Nancy Macirowski, who represents the BEP, said Wednesday that the board will have three options when it meets in July and hears from Casella’s representative and Spencer.

The board can back the DEP’s public benefit determination, which would allow the State Planning Office and Casella to apply to expand the landfill.

The board also can override the DEP’s decision, which would end this landfill expansion effort.

Finally, the BEP has the option of modifying the DEP’s public benefit determination by changing the size of the expansion favored by the DEP.

If the BEP backs the DEP’s public benefit determination and the technical application process begins, a whole new appeals process could begin, according to Macirowski. She said residents could challenge items in the application ranging from odor to traffic to geology.

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