Senate kills action on NH landfills as waste piles up (2024)

CONCORD — When Rep. David Rochefort drives into Concord two or three times a week for his work at the Legislature, he sees trucks full of out-of-state trash heading north.

About half of the waste dumped into New Hampshire’s six active landfills – located in Bethlehem, Lebanon, Rochester, Conway, Success, and Nashua – comes from other New England states.

A host of bills this session – several sponsored by Rochefort, a Littleton Republican – sought to address the heaps of trash being imported into the state and pump the brakes on new landfill development. The House passed all but one with overwhelming bipartisan support, only for the Senate to shoot down the proposals.

Tom Tower, vice president of North Country Alliance for Balanced Change, said the Senate has for years killed solid waste reform and landfill legislation.

“Solid waste reform is a critical need in the state of New Hampshire,” Tower said, “because presently Massachusetts and other New England states use New Hampshire as their dumping ground.”

The spurned legislation comes at an important point for landfills in the Granite State. The Department of Environmental Services is revising its landfill rules, some of which Rochefort described as “ridiculously lax.” In Dalton, Vermont-based Casella Waste Systems is trying to build a 147-acre landfill near Forest Lake. and in Bethlehem, that same company won a recent legal battle to expand its landfill there.

Rochefort said he gets many messages from his constituents on the landfill issues.

“One-hundred percent of the messages are, ‘What the heck is the state doing?’” Rochefort said. “‘This is out of control. We don’t want New Hampshire to be a dump.’”

One proposal, House Bill 1632, would have prevented newly permitted solid waste facilities from accepting more than 15 percent of their waste from out of state. It was approved by a unanimous voice vote in the House Committee on Environment and Agriculture and on the House floor, Rochefort said, but died in the Senate.

When other states bring their trash to New Hampshire, they bring their pollution with them.

“For every ton of trash that is imported, it generates also a ton of leachate,” Tower said, referring to the liquids that fester in or pass through landfills, especially after rain. “That leachate contains toxic chemicals.”

Another measure, House Bill 1145, would have required new landfills to be owned by the state. In this public-private partnership, New Hampshire would have owned the land and leased out the operations to a company. This would make it easier for the state to limit the quantities and types of trash coming from out of state, Rochefort said, without running astray of the Interstate Commerce Act.

This isn’t an entirely new concept in New Hampshire. For instance, Rochefort said, the state owns Mount Sunapee and leases it out to a ski company.

The Senate sent this bill to interim study, where it may be considered further before the next legislative session.

The one landfill measure that wasn’t supported by the House was House Bill 1132, which asked that brownfield sites – areas that have been developed before – be considered as alternative places to put landfills in the public benefit requirement analysis for a site.

The last glimmer of hope for action on trash this session came from efforts to put a moratorium on new landfill permits. House Bill 1620 would have barred the DES from issuing permits for new landfills until 2028.

New Hampshire has enough current landfill capacity to last until 2034, according to a 2021-2022 review by DES, so supporters of the legislation argued a pause six years before that would leave adequate time to carve out more room for refuge if needed.

The proposal was approved by the House and shot down by the Senate, but its fate didn’t end there. The legislation was tacked onto another measure, Senate Bill 134, in hopes of keeping it alive long enough to go to a committee of conference to negotiate with senators. But, again, the Senate voted it down.

“It’s unfortunate because, you know, the people of New Hampshire want some resolution to this,” Rochefort said. “And the Senate is just kind of sitting on their hands.”

Despite the losses this session, Rochefort called it a “monumental year” for the landfill bills because of the overwhelming support in the House. He thinks the consensus-building in his chamber is a marker of progress to come.

“Every time we have an opportunity to have a hearing and listen to the experts, there’s one more person that says, ‘Oh, yeah, I get it,’” he said. “The light bulb goes off.”

New Hampshire Bulletin is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity.

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New Hampshire Bulletinis part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity.

Senate kills action on NH landfills as waste piles up (2024)


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