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Environment and Outdoors

Lawmakers endorse bill that would end loophole allowing out-of-state waste into Maine's state landfill

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Nick Woodward
/
Maine Public file
Protesters outside Juniper Ridge Landfill in Old Town on April 22, 2021.

Maine lawmakers are one step closer to closing a loophole that allows construction and demolition waste from other states to end up at the state-owned landfill in Old Town.

The Environment and Natural Resources Committee voted 11-1 on Monday to recommend a proposal that would end those exemptions. It'll now be considered by the full Legislature.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Anne Carney, a Democrat of Cape Elizabeth, said that the legislation is meant to restrict a business called ReSource Lewiston that has imported hundreds of thousands of tons of construction debris from other states to Maine over the last decade.

It generally removes a small amount of that waste to sell as recycling and sends the rest along to the Juniper Ridge Landfill.

“Ninety percent of the waste that comes into the processing facility in Lewiston and then goes to Juniper Ridge, 90 percent of that originates from out-of-state," Carney said before the vote on Monday morning. "Most of it is from Massachusetts. There is some amount of it that also comes from New Hampshire.”

Environmental groups and neighbors of the Old Town landfill support the proposal. They have expressed concern that the out-of-state waste is contributing to the fast rate at which Juniper Ridge is being filled and introducing potential sources of contamination into the surrounding environment.

The legislation, LD 1639, is opposed by all the companies involved in the waste's handling and disposal.

The contractor that runs Juniper Ridge, Casella Waste Systems of Vermont, says that the imports provide an affordable source of materials required to maintain the site. ReSource Lewiston says that it could have to close if the proposal is approved.

The Legislature last attempted to limit those imports two years ago, but ReSource was exempted from significant changes after it pledged to make upgrades to its recycling infrastructure. As part of that approval, state regulators are planning to review the arrangement in 2024.

The one lawmaker to vote against the current proposal, Rep. Jeffery Hanley, a Republican from Pittston, expressed concern that the state is now "moving the goal posts" for ReSource Lewiston. He also expressed concern that the business could shed about 40 jobs if the bill is passed.