NH House gives landfill moratorium bill a second chance

A refuse truck backs up to dump trash at the Nashua landfill.

A refuse truck backs up to dump trash at the Nashua landfill. GEOFF FORESTER/Monitor staff

By SRUTHI GOPALAKRISHNAN

Monitor staff

Published: 05-23-2024 12:14 PM

After the New Hampshire Senate killed a moratorium bill that would pause landfill permits, the House of Representatives has given the legislation a second chance by adding it to an unrelated bill, hoping the Senate will pass it this time.

“I want everyone to know that this is not going to sacrifice the underlying bill,” said Rep. Kelly Potenza as she introduced the amendment to Senate Bill 134 at the House Session on Thursday. “We’re hoping that this is going to send a message that maybe we could go to a committee of conference and actually finally have New Hampshire citizens’ voices be heard.”

Lawmakers voted by voice to support amending Senate Bill 134, which was originally focused on establishing a retirement system benefit for public safety employees who are victims of violence, to also include the proposed landfill moratorium.

The amendment, which was originally House Bill 1620,  seeks to place a moratorium on landfill permits in New Hampshire until 2028. Initially, sponsors of the bill had proposed a freeze until 2031.

Potenza added that New Hampshire has enough capacity to bury its trash without a new landfill for at least 30 more years.

This development follows the recent public hearing held by the Department of Environmental Services on proposed landfill siting rules, which many citizens, state legislators from both parties and environmental advocates criticized as too weak.

Every 10 years, New Hampshire’s environmental state agency must update its solid waste rules before they expire. The current regulations are set to lapse in July.

Rep. Linda Haskins voiced concern, stating that each draft of the proposed rules has become progressively weaker over the past months. She emphasized that approving a new landfill before the state strengthens its environmental and public health protections would not be right.

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“They are slightly better than the previous rules. But they have become weakened in the different variations that our committee was shown,” said Haskins, a member of the House Environment and Agriculture Committee. “We must not go forward with a new landfill in the state of New Hampshire until the protections are in place, a community of our constituents up and down the state are depending on us.”