Testimony in Opposition to LD 718, An Act To Increase the Beneficial Reuse of Construction and Demolition Debris
Senator Brenner, Representative Gramlich, and members of the Joint Standing Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, my name is Sarah Nichols, and I am the Sustainable Maine Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM). I appreciate this opportunity to testify in opposition to LD 718, as the bill is proposed to be amended by the sponsor.
We urge the Committee to reject this proposal to allow a significant volume of out-of-state waste to be dumped in our State-owned landfill for the next two years and weaken important reuse and recycling requirements for construction and demolition debris.
NRCM understands that the sponsor’s amendment to LD 718 is intended to help address the sludge disposal problem faced by our towns. However, the proposed delay would amount to a major financial gift to Casella Waste Systems that is far beyond any policy change that may be necessary to stabilize waste at Juniper Ridge. Casella was opposed to the passage of LD 1639 last session, which closed the out-of-state waste loophole, but the company’s position failed to carry the day. The bill received overwhelming public support and a unanimous vote by the Senate, and the Governor held a bill signing ceremony to celebrate the notable accomplishment.
Casella is a multi-billion-dollar waste company with soaring profits¹ that clearly doesn’t want to let go of revenues from importing waste or incur new expenses by operating the Juniper Ridge Landfill (JRL) in a fashion consistent with the interests of Maine people as reflected in Maine law. We believe Casella is exploiting current concerns about sludge disposal to undermine Maine law and maximize profits, and itis using Maine towns to help the company overturn the law.
In February, Casella’s representatives attempted to explain the reasons for their failure to foresee how sludge management at JRL would need to change following the passage of LD 1639. Despite Casella’s claims, the truth is that there are more ways to stabilize sludge in a landfill than with old couches from Massachusetts.² However, the company did not make alternative arrangements to accommodate the loss of out-of-state stabilization materials, and refused solutions that were presented to it by DEP. Casella’s obstinance was further illustrated in an April 20, 2023, Bangor Daily News article describing the frustrating exchange between State officials and Casella that the paper obtained after a public records request. I’ve attached a copy of that article to my testimony for your reference.
We are sympathetic to the wastewater treatment plant operators who have little choice but to accept rate increases imposed on them by Casella. We also understand that the State has essentially no control over how the State-owned landfill is managed. And we acknowledge that landfills must safely stabilize sludge by mixing it with a minimum amount of other waste, and that each type of stabilization material has its pros and cons. But we know that the proposal before you is optimized for Casella’s interests and not for the interests of Maine people or communities.
Further, we firmly oppose weakening the recycling standards at one of Maine’s solid waste processing facilities, as proposed in the sponsor’s amendment. Doing so would be inequitable and move us further away from reaching Maine’s recycling goals. We urge you to reject LD 718 as proposed to be amended by the sponsor for all these reasons. Alternatively, we suggest that you use this bill as a vehicle to reevaluate the State’s contractual arrangement with Casella, investigate the company’s pricing strategies and management of the landfill, and create a formalized plan to sustainably manage the state’s sludge into the future.
I appreciate this opportunity to provide comments on LD 718, and I would be happy to work with the Committee to find actual solutions that protect Maine’s people and our environment.
2 Couches are a common example of “Oversized Bulky Waste” or “OBW,” which has a standard industry meaning that includes large items that may be difficult to process, such as mattresses, furniture, appliances, and certain other components of demolition debris.