Chris Sununu has accepted at least $8,000 from Casella Waste Systems, Inc. and is now ignoring their pollution of New Hampshire’s Ammonoosuc River.
Casella has been working to aggressively expand its landfill in Bethlehem, New Hampshire, over the strong objection of local citizens—and despite Casella’s 2012 agreement with the Town that it would not seek further expansion.[i] Casella is not a good neighbor, though.
Even worse, Casella is discharging contaminated groundwater, landfill leachate, iron, manganese, and 1,4-dioxane (a carcinogen) from its Bethlehem landfill into the scenic Ammonoosuc River via a 370-foot long drainage channel in violation of the federal Clean Water Act (CWA). Look to Southbridge, Massachusetts to another example see Casella’s poor environmental stewardship.[ii]
Toxics Action Center and Conservation Law Foundation were forced to initiate enforcement action in federal court under the “citizen suit” provision of the CWA, pleading that: “neither EPA not the State of New Hampshire has commenced or is diligently prosecuting a civil or criminal action against [Casella] to address any of the violations.”[iii]
The Conservation Law Foundation reports that “about two million tons of waste are burned or buried in New Hampshire each year. Unfortunately, around half of that waste is imported from outside of the Granite State, because the large landfills located in Rochester and Bethlehem accept waste from across New England.”[iv]
Unfortunately, states cannot pass laws requiring private landfills to accept only in-state trash. The United States Supreme Court has struck down such laws on the grounds that shipping of trash constitutes interstate commerce.
New Hampshire is well on its way to becoming a disposal hub for New England’s trash – and Casella is intent on putting mountains of trash in the middle of the White Mountains.
At a minimum, Governor Sununu should be working to ensure that existing landfills operate within the law and do not jeopardize natural and recreational resources like the Ammonoosuc River or public health. Sununu has done nothing.
It is within Congressional power to authorize states to turn away trash from outside their borders, and New Hampshire’s Congressional Delegation should consider introducing legislation for that purpose.[v] Otherwise, with Sununu as Governor, we may become known for our mountains of trash rather than our White Mountains.
[i] See Koziol, John, Bethlehem Landfill Vote May Have Implications Across the State, Union Leader, Jan. 29, 2017 available at http://www.unionleader.com/article/20170130/NEWS0612/170129253/0/img; and Rosengren, Cole, Update: New Hampshire Voters Go Against Casella Landfill Expansion, WasteDive, Mar. 14, 2018, at https://www.wastedive.com/news/casella-landfill-town-election-new-hampshire/518954/ .
[ii] Pecci, Kirstie, Victory: Southbridge Landfill Ordered to Close All Operations in Charlton Due to Zoning Law Violation, Conservation Law Foundation Blog at https://www.clf.org/blog/victory-southbridge-landfill-ordered-close-operations-charlton-due-zoning-law-violation/ .
[iii] Complaint at ¶12, Toxics Action Center v. Casella Waste Systems, Inc. (D. NH) (No. 18-cv-393) available at http://www.nhpr.org/post/enviro-groups-sue-casella-alleging-pollution-bethlehem-landfill#stream/0 .
[iv] Irwin, Tom, Residents Reject Expansion of Bethlehem Landfill, Conservation Law Foundation Blog, Mar. 27, 2018, at https://www.clf.org/blog/residents-rebel-against-efforts-to-expand-bethlehem-landfill/
[v] For a detailed history of interstate garbage case law, see Brickwedde, Richard J., Interstate Garbage: The Carbone Case and the Commerce Clause, ABA State and Local Law News, vol. 18, No. 2, 1995 available at http://brickwedde.com/publications/8-interstate-garbage-the-carbone-case-and-the-commerce-clause.html