COMMUNITY LEADERS TESTIFY IN SUPPORT OF BILL TO CLOSE MAINE’S OUT-OF-STATE WASTE LOOPHOLE
OVER A DOZEN RESIDENTS CALL TO PASS BILL AND PROTECT LANDFILL COMMUNITIES FROM TOXIC WASTE
[AUGUSTA, MAINE]—Today, community leaders, Wabanaki tribal members, and environmental advocates testified at the Committee of Environment and Natural Resources hearing in support of LD1639, a bill that would close Maine’s out-of-state waste loophole.
The bill was brought forward by neighbors living in the shadow of the Juniper Ridge Landfill in Old Town, ME, which is the largest state-owned landfill in Maine. Community leaders estimate that 30% of the waste the landfill accepts is toxic construction and demolition debris (CDD) from out of state. Massachusetts has banned CDD from being disposed of in their landfills.
Many people who testified in support of the bill emphasized how closing the out-of-state waste loophole would protect the health and environment in their community.
“The State as owner has failed to protect Maine citizens and assisted Casella in setting Maine waste policy,” said Ed Spencer, Chair of Don’t Waste ME. “Members of the Maine Legislature have the authority to correct the injustice that has filled our state landfill capacity with waste from away.”
Despite regulations that are supposed to prevent out-of-state waste from being dumped in state-owned landfills, a loophole allows waste to enter Maine from surrounding states, get mixed around with waste generated in Maine, and be “counted” as Maine waste—which means it can end up in state-owned landfills like the Juniper Ridge. LD1639 would close that loophole.
“The primary reason why the State bought the Juniper Ridge Landfill was to have the legal authority to prevent it from being filled with waste sent to Maine from other states, but this loophole has allowed for the equivalent of sixteen forty-ton tractor trailer trucks dumping waste into JRL every single day of the year,” explained Sarah Nichols, Sustainable Maine Director at Natural Resources Council of Maine.
Pollution from the Juniper Ridge Landfill threatens sites of historical, cultural, and Spiritual significance for the Penobscot Nation, including the Penobscot River and Bay, and drinking water for the area.
“As an Indigenous person I find all the bargaining and negotiating away of the health and waters of my homeland reprehensible,” said Mali Obomsawin, member of the Wabanaki community, enrolled in Odanak Abenaki nation, and an activist and journalist for Sunlight Media Collective and Racial Equity and Justice. “The percentages, and compromises , and talk of investments and commerce that I’ve heard in this hearing are akin to negotiating away the rights and wellbeing of my own mother.”
In addition to the Penobscot River, hazardous out of state waste and landfill leachate are actively polluting the Kennebec River, conditions that will worsen with the proposed expansion of Waste Management’s Crossroads Landfill. This comes at a time when wild Atlantic salmon are on the brink of extinction and restoration of that river is critical to their survival.
“There is more that we need to do to ensure that communities that have been most impacted and targeted for polluting industries are protected,” said Dana Colihan, Maine State Director at Community Action Works. “We hope you take action to manage our waste better, but more importantly protect our communities better.”
The bill would do three things. First, it would close the out-of-state waste loophole by ensuring that waste facilities can’t send more out-of-state waste than waste that originates in Maine to Juniper Ridge Landfill. For example, if only 10% of a processing facility’s waste is generated from within the state, that facility can only send 10% of their waste to Juniper Ridge Landfill.
Second, the bill would ensure that landfilling waste is not counted as “recycling.” Currently, landfilling waste can count toward the 50% recycling standard that a solid waste processing facility must meet. This bill would change that.
Third, the bill would make sure environmental justice is considered in the expansion and licensing of state-owned waste facilities, giving the communities most impacted by pollution a greater say in the decision-making process.