Concord Monitor – New Hampshire Senate again rejects landfill moratorium

In a majority vote on Thursday, the Senate again rejected the moratorium on landfills, once again denying the opportunity for a debate in both chambers.

Senate Bill 134 was originally proposed to provide disability pensions for police and fire officers who suffer serious and permanent injuries from violent acts in the line of duty before reaching retirement age.

Last week, however, Representative Kelley Potenza added House Bill 1620 to the bill, which addresses landfill legislation previously rejected by the Senate.

“I don't agree with the way Rep. Potenza approached the issue and put it into this specific bill,” said Senator Sue Prentiss, one of the sponsors of SB 134. “She potentially could have killed not only the landfill moratorium, but also this public safety pension bill.”

House Bill 1620 would impose a moratorium on landfill permits until 2028. The bill's goal is to temporarily suspend landfill permits until the state's waste management goals and regulations are strengthened to better protect the environment and public health.

Many environmentalists and lawmakers argue that New Hampshire will not need another landfill for at least a decade, especially if the amount of garbage coming from other states is reduced.

“Putting these permits on hold for another four years would really do the state no harm and would actually give them time to get this right,” said Rep. David Rochefort, the lead sponsor of the landfill legislation. “I feel like we're taking a chance here in New Hampshire. We had the perfect opportunity to hit the brakes and slow this down with HB 1620, but we didn't get any cooperation on the other side of the wall.”

This is not the first time the New Hampshire Senate has rejected a landfill bill. It has been a pattern repeated in recent years, and environmentalists are concerned that political considerations are taking precedence over environmental issues.

Like many other supporters of the landfill legislation, Wayne Morrison, chairman of the North Country Alliance for Balanced Change, said the Senate's decision to kill the bill was expected and not surprising.

“We have introduced a number of bills on the issue of solid waste,” Morrison said. “The Senate has been very dismissive and it is disappointing that they are not prepared to acknowledge the problem and do something about it.”

Meanwhile, the Department of Environmental Services is reviewing Casella Waste Systems' application for a landfill in Dalton near Forest Lake, a site that has raised concerns among many state residents.

Morrison noted that passage of the bill “certainly would have impacted the timing” of approval for Casella's North Country landfill.

The defeat of Senate Bill 134 will most likely not affect the disability benefits bill because Senator Regina Birdsell, the bill's primary sponsor, had preemptively attached the bill to three other House bills in case the original bill fails.

“The Senate needs to start finding solutions and offering ideas instead of just staying silent and killing bills,” Morrison said, adding that they would continue to push for stronger environmental protections. “This is just a terrible sight and it's bad for the state and the Senate needs to wake up.”

Anna Harden

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