Majority of solid waste bills failed
|Published: 07-20-2023 10:10 AM
Faced with more than a dozen bills related to solid waste during this year’s legislative session, lawmakers passed only two after six months of public hearings, debates and committee sessions.
One bill introduces additional requirements for background investigations and criminal records checks for permit applicants of solid waste and hazardous waste facilities. The second bill establishes a committee tasked with studying the potential implications of future permits for landfills and the influx of out-of-state waste into New Hampshire.
Bills related to surface waste setbacks for landfills and permits for siting landfills failed this session.
State Rep. Nicholas Germana, a member of the House Environment and Agriculture committee, said he and other legislators were disappointed by the involvement of industry interests in solid waste-related bills.
“I think the frustration that we all felt was that there are industry interests that are particularly important for the governor and his decisions about what kind of legislation he’s going to sign or can veto around solid waste,” said Germana, a Keene Democrat. “This year’s bills around solid waste were more influenced by the economic interests of industry than they were by public health concerns or concerns from the environment.”
State Rep. Sherry Dutzy, another member of the Environment and Agriculture committee, remained on the fence about industry involvement in this year’s session.
“I don’t think it’s inappropriate for industries to weigh in on the bills,” said Dutzy, a Nashua Democrat. “What’s inappropriate is when legislators or government officials take the word of industry without weighing all the other factors.”
Senate Bill 211 concentrates on revisions to the state’s solid waste management statutes language.
With strong support from the Department of Environmental Services, the bill instructs the department to undertake criminal background checks and analysis of performance history on prospective applicants seeking permits for solid and hazardous waste facilities.
The department requests these investigations through the Attorney General’s office and has the authority to reject a permit application from any individual who has been convicted, pled guilty, or entered a no-contest plea for a felony offense within the last five years, whether in a state or federal court.
In its present form, the law fails to specify the procedures required for conducting multi-state criminal background checks. Recognizing this oversight, SB 211 seeks to rectify the situation by incorporating explicit provisions that outline the necessary steps for carrying out such checks.
Another Senate bill that passed establishes a study committee to analyze the state’s most concerning trash problem – out-of-state trash.
“The very first priority is we need to stop taking unlimited out-of-state garbage, that’s a potential health issue,” said Germana who will be a part of the study committee. “The less out-of-state trash we take, it buys us even more time before we’re going to need landfill space.”
A report from the state’s environment department published in November shows that more than 45% of the trash comes from out-of-state sources. This trash is dumped in the state’s commercial landfills.
While banning out-of-state trash may initially appear to be a straightforward solution to this problem, such an action would likely violate the Interstate Commerce Clause, which regulates business between states.
Along with researching out-of-state waste and understanding the Commerce Clause, the committee will also look into the state’s environment department’s issuance of future permits to unlimited service area landfills.
While two House Bills addressing the diversion of food waste have been retained in the committee after successfully passing in the House, the state’s budget includes notable provisions to reduce food waste in landfills and incinerators.
As per the budget bill, individuals or businesses generating a minimum of one ton of food waste per week will be prohibited from disposing of such waste in landfills or incinerators, provided that an alternative facility capable of accepting food waste exists within a 20-mile radius.
Moreover, the budget bill establishes a new committee for studying and proposing how the state can implement extended producer responsibility programs to hold manufacturers accountable for the waste they generate and aim to alleviate consumers from the burden.
New Hampshire is falling behind other New England states in effectively managing solid waste, said Dutzy.
“We are in a negative cycle,” said Dutzy, “If we don’t reduce the amount of trash generated, we encourage more companies to enter the trash disposal business.”