AUGUSTA, Maine — A citizen-led environmental board voted Thursday to uphold recommendations by the Department of Environmental Protection that will maintain current limits on how much municipal solid waste can be dumped in the Juniper Ridge Landfill in Old Town.
With Thursday’s vote, the Board of Environmental Protection rejected appeals to earlier decisions that cap the waste limit for NEWSME Landfill Operations, LLC, a subsidiary of Casella Waste Systems, Inc., at Juniper Ridge to 81,800 tons annually.
Casella is the only commercial waste hauler that dumps municipal waste at the state-owned Juniper Ridge.
In 2012, NEWSME applied to amend a previous contract to dispose of up to 123,000 pounds of waste per year at Juniper Ridge but subsequently resubmitted its application with a cap of 93,000 tons per year.
Meanwhile, Edward Spencer of Old Town also appealed the previous contract with the intention of cutting the cap to 25,000 tons per year.
Thursday’s decision, which came after more than 5 hours of testimony and deliberations, rejected both appeals.
Thomas Doyle, a Pierce Atwood attorney who represented NEWSME in the appeal, argued his client should be allowed to dispose of 93,000 tons at the landfill until it’s full, which according to various testimony offered Thursday could be in five to 10 years.
Doyle also objected to a list of conditions proposed by the DEP, including a provision that would have sunsetted the contract — and the waste cap — in 2016 and another that incorporated the state’s so-called waste disposal hierarchy in the contract.
The hierarchy basically states that municipal solid waste disposal companies must exhaust all other possibilities, such as recycling and bringing trash to incineration sites, before sending waste to a state-owned landfill.
Doyle called those provisions and others unfair to his client.
“It’s fundamentally unfair to impose a standard that’s never been imposed on anyone else in a proceeding like this,” argued Doyle. “That’s what’s happening here. … This is creating new standards in the middle of the game.”
Melanie Loyzim, director of the Department of Environmental Protection’s Bureau of Remediation and Waste Management, argued that there is substantial leeway in Maine law that allows involving waste hierarchy concepts in commercial contracts.
Casella has argued that the increased tonnage being brought to Juniper Ridge is largely offset by the fact that ash and other debris from the Biddeford plant is no longer being brought to Old Town.
The BEP on Thursday amended the DEP’s staff recommendations in two areas. The board voted to extend the 81,800-ton cap by two years to March 31, 2018, and voted to clarify language that involves a contract between Casella and Penobscot Energy Waste Recovery Co., a trash incinerator located in Orrington, under which Casella provides up to 30,000 tons of solid waste per year to PERC in the event the incinerator’s supply of solid waste from surrounding municipalities runs short.
That waste stream has been shrinking in recent years because of increased recycling efforts.
Both amendments, along with the rejection of the two appeals, were approved in a 3-2 vote with BEP members Susan Lessard of Hampden and Tom Eastler of Farmington in the minority opposition.