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'Environmental Justice' Added To Waste Facility Review Standards

Maine’s Board of Environmental Protection voted on Thursday to add environmental justice as a standard that must be considered when reviewing proposed new or expanded solid waste facilities in the state.

The language was proposed by environmental and tribal watchdog groups. Opponents representing industry players like Casella Waste Systems and ReEnergy Holdings called the standard too vague.

But BEP board member Bob Duschene says the Penobscot Nation’s experience provides a prime example of environmental injustice. He notes that a decade after a West Old Town landfill was sited next to tribal lands, another next-door landfill was proposed in Argyle.

“I think this was a real-word example of where environmental injustice can be demonstrated by somebody who’s opposing a project,” he says. “Not only could this happen, I think it already has.”

The advocates say the measure is only a partial success, however, because the board turned down a linked proposal that aimed to eliminate the hundreds of thousands of tons of waste Massachusetts sends to Maine. Many board members say they object to continued acceptance of that waste, but the Legislature has tied their hands.

Opponents are planning a new effort to change the law this year.

A Columbia University graduate, Fred began his journalism career as a print reporter in Vermont, then came to Maine Public in 2001 as its political reporter, as well as serving as a host for a variety of Maine Public Radio and Maine Public Television programs. Fred later went on to become news director for New England Public Radio in Western Massachusetts and worked as a freelancer for National Public Radio and a number of regional public radio stations, including WBUR in Boston and NHPR in New Hampshire.