News release by Don’t Waste ME, Community Action Works, and the Natural Resources Council of Maine
February 7, 2022 (Augusta, ME) – A bill to stop filling Maine’s landfills with out-of-state waste received a key endorsement today when a bipartisan majority of the Legislature’s Environment & Natural Resources Committee voted 11-2* in favor. LD 1639 would close a loophole in the state’s waste laws that allows private companies to profit off importing construction and demolition waste from across New England and dumping it in the State-owned Juniper Ridge Landfill.
“It’s time for lawmakers to close the loophole before this problem gets any worse so we can preserve the capacity of the Juniper Ridge Landfill for Mainers as it was intended,” said Sarah Nichols, Sustainable Maine Director at the Natural Resources Council of Maine.
The State of Maine bought the Juniper Ridge Landfill in Old Town with the intent to reserve the limited capacity for the needs of Maine people. Every year, more than 200,000 tons of waste are imported from surrounding states and disposed of at Juniper Ridge because of the loophole in Maine’s laws. That amounts to 16 tractor trailer truck loads of out-of-state waste passing through Maine every day of the year. As a result, the landfill is filling 32% faster than anticipated, and about one-third of the waste originates from surrounding states.
“Maine’s weak waste laws make it cheap and easy to dump toxic materials here,” said Dana Colihan, the Maine State Director at Community Action Works. “LD 1639 will protect the health of Maine people and communities with stronger waste regulations.”
At the May 2021 public hearing for LD 1639, 42 residents and environmental and social justice organizations testified in support, while those who opposed were all companies or individuals that would benefit financially from the loophole staying in place. Don’t Waste ME, a coalition of impacted community members and Tribal citizens adversely affected by the negative impacts of waste facilities, is leading the campaign for responsible policies to deal with our discarded materials.
“Rapidly filling landfills require expansions and lead to increased pollution, which disproportionately impacts residents living near the landfill, the Penobscot Nation, and the Penobscot River and Bay,” said Ed Spencer of Don’t Waste ME, who lives in the community of West Old Town. “Lawmakers have the power and authority to correct this injustice and put Maine back on a path of justice and common sense.”
More than 2,000 Mainers have signed a petition supporting LD 1639 and urging legislators to close the loophole that allows Maine to be a dumping ground for out-of-state waste.
LD 1639 is sponsored by Senator Anne Carney and will head to the Maine Senate for a vote after a procedural language review.
For additional background:
- Download fact sheet (PDF)
- Animated video
- NRCM out-of-state waste webpage
- Pre-recorded webinar
- Sunlight Media Collective video
- Don’t Waste ME
*Update: This news release has been updated to reflect the final committee vote of 11-2, which includes the vote of a legislator who was absent during the initial vote.