WESSLER: The North Country Doesn’t Need Another Landfill

Published in the NH Journal, November 9 2020

John W. Casella, chairman and CEO of Casella Waste Systems, accuses Grafton County lawmakers of trying to “curry favor” with voters by opposing his mega-landfill proposed in Dalton adjacent to Forest Lake. (North Country voters deserve facts NH Journal Oct. 23).

If anyone is trying to curry political favor, John W. Casella certainly fits the bill.  Although his company is headquartered and he lives in Vermont, he is a consistent contributor to New Hampshire Republican candidates and the New Hampshire Senate Republican PAC, according to filed campaign finance reports.

We are convinced that the vast majority of North Country residents are opposed to the Casella proposal, and there are at least three non-profit citizen organizations that support sustainable alternatives to another Casella landfill in the Ammonoosuc River watershed.

We are the North Country Alliance for Balanced Change (NCABC), and we applaud the Grafton County Democratic Caucus opposition to yet another North Country landfill, and its responsible call to reform the state’s solid waste management policies (Opinion: Our Future Can’t Be Bought NH Journal Oct. 13).

The Grafton County lawmakers rightly point out that state government’s role in managing solid waste generated within New Hampshire must not be outsourced to companies, out-of-state companies at that, which are motivated by profits and without strong local roots.

In particular, there is significant concern that, according to Casella’s commitment to the town of Dalton, up to half of all of the waste landfilled in Dalton will come from out-of-state.  The caucus also wisely proposes managing “our own trash infrastructure” or risk negative impacts on the environment and tourism economy.

The Caucus correctly noted that the environmental and quality of life impact posed by a 137-acre landfill (for starters) near the shores of Forest Lake and one of the state’s oldest state park would be significant—with repercussions on the region’s tourism economy, and quality of life for thousands of North Country residents.

In his opinion piece, John Casella downplayed water quality impacts on the Ammonoosuc River from his Bethlehem facility and the proposed Dalton landfill. But the Ammonoosuc River Local Advisory Committee voted unanimously this month recommending the state reject Casella’s wetlands permit for the proposed facility.

In a letter dated Oct. 1 to the state Wetlands Bureau, the advisory committee cited numerous concerns, including the disruption of “well-functioning wetlands” and five vernal pools on the site, in addition to the impact of two landfills upstream of Lisbon, Bath and Woodsville which all depend on the river and its watershed for drinking water.

The committee also worried about drainage and runoff flowing downhill from the landfill to the river and the impact on two trout fisheries and wildlife habitat posed by the proposed Dalton landfill. The prospect of heavy truck traffic to and from the proposed landfill on Route 116 also was cited by the committee in its decision.

NCABC believes that the state Department of Environmental Services must insist on solid waste management protocols protecting the land, water, quality of life, and health of the people of New Hampshire.  The Dalton site that Casella favors is no doubt convenient and cost-effective for Casella, but for so many reasons it is otherwise a terrible site for a new mega-landfill.

DES’s mission is “to help sustain a high quality of life for all citizens by protecting and restoring the environment and public health in New Hampshire.”  That mission says nothing about fostering the convenience and economic advantage of Casella Waste Systems Inc. which has exploited a void in a regulatory capacity and political willpower for decades in New Hampshire.

Casella suggests that NH has no solid waste alternatives other than to approve its proposal for a new Dalton landfill.  Nonsense.  There are viable alternatives that communities can choose, including other existing landfills, as well as better management of their solid waste volumes.

Communities south of Franconia Notch anticipating shipping their solid waste to the White Mountains region of the North Country to an ill-suited and unwanted Dalton landfill should consider regional solutions for their waste.

The White Mountains cannot become New Hampshire’s dumping ground.

Eliot Wessler, president NCABC

Board members Sarah Doucette, Gary Ghioto, Erik Johnson, Mary Menzies, Tom Tower, Stephen Walker

Dalton Select Board Takes Next Step After Casella Offer

Board Enlists Town Attorney To Look Into Zoning Question; Residents Offer Feedback On Casella Proposal 

Caledonian Record, Published September 12, 2020 by Robert Blechl, reprinted with permission

One week after Casella Waste Systems made its formal offer of $71 million over 25 years to the town of Dalton in support for a landfill beside Forest Lake State Park, selectmen took their next step — looking into the zoning question.

Since July 2019, Dalton has had temporary emergency zoning (coming out a special town meeting in 2019 in response a possible landfill), and the Board of Selectmen on Wednesday voted 3-0 to enlist the town attorney to look into the zoning application process.

“In terms of our next step as a board, I want to make sure that we are representing the town and the town is well-represented,” said Jo Beth Dudley, chair of the Dalton Board of Selectmen. “I think the next step is deciding whether [the proposed landfill] requires a zoning application or not.”

She read a Sept. 1 letter from the Casella engineer, John Gay in response to the zoning question, in which Gay said the “question about zoning, as we understand New Hampshire law, with landfills the NHDES [New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services] has exclusive authority over those areas that would usually be in a town’s zoning review. That’s why we weren’t prepared last night to discuss local zoning.”

One of the reasons Casella proposed the host community agreement (HCA) is because the company recognizes that state regulations preempt almost all local regulation, and under the HCA, Casella can create ways for the town to participate in state permitting that otherwise wouldn’t be possible, said Gay.

Dudley, however, said when she reads the state regulations, the zoning question isn’t entirely clear and an opinion by legal counsel should be the next step.

On a question about zoning during a July 23 update on Casella’s proposed landfill expansion in Bethlehem, where it operates as North Country Environmental Services (NCES), and on its current plans for Dalton, Mike Wimsatt, director of DES’s Solid Waste Management Bureau, said towns do have a degree of authority.

“The state of New Hampshire has primacy with respect to how a facility is sited, designed and operated under state law,” he said. “However, the courts have held very specifically in a couple of cases that a community has a right to determine through properly enacted zoning where a solid waste facility may be located in a community.”

In the 2004 New Hampshire Supreme Court case NCES vs. town of Bethlehem, the NHSC justices, citing RSA 149-M, the state’s solid waste management statute, said “State law preemption of local regulation of solid waste management facilities must be the norm, not the exception” and DES has authority over a landfill’s height, design and footprint, but that municipalities with zoning do have some authority, including not only regarding the location of a landfill, but the size of it.

The NHSC justices ruled that 149-M did not prevent the town of Bethlehem, which has zoning, and would not prevent any other town from prohibiting the development or expansion of a landfill outside of a zoned landfill district.

Casella is looking to build a new landfill in Dalton, one proposed to have a 137-acre footprint, after Bethlehem voters twice rejected the company’s proposal to expand Bethlehem’s current 61-acre landfill district by another 100 acres.

“A plain reading of the statute is that RSA chapter 149-M does not preempt lawful, applicable local regulations that are consistent with State law,” wrote the NHSC justices.

The Dalton Planning Board is advancing a permanent zoning ordinance that could be presented to voters at the 2021 town meeting. Public hearings on the proposed ordinance are expected to begin in October.

Dalton selectmen on Wednesday voted to ask legal counsel to look into the time line process with zoning and get a better understanding of it in conjunction with the HCA and Casella’s permit applications with DES.

To cut down on legal expenses, Dudley said the town attorney at this point is not yet being asked to read and digest the HCA, and she suggested the town enlist a contract attorney if or when it becomes time to look more closely at the HCA.

Residents: Don’t Sign In Haste

Several Forest Lake residents gave their feedback on the proposed HCA, and all expressed concerns.

“There are some concerns I have about the host community agreement, and I certainly agree that it’s impossible to evaluate the potential benefits for the community until we have some idea of what the project is with its own benefits and harms,” said Dalton resident Adam Finkel. “It was a little unnerving to see a legal document with some space for signatures for our [selectmen]. I certainly assume there will be no signing of that until at least there is something to compare it to.”

In written comments to selectmen, part-time Whitefield resident Eliot Wessler said the HCA is “riddled with loopholes and ambiguities, all in Casella’s favor.”

“Some people in Dalton seem to think that Casella is offering the town a great deal — the promise of $71 million over 25 years,” wrote Wessler. “But the experience of other host communities is that it’s just not worth it. Dalton residents need to look no further than Bethlehem to find lots of examples of Casella’s broken promises, and examples where Casella’s ‘host benefits’ have been eaten up by attorney’s fees from endless litigation, and the costs of environmental and economic damage to the town.”

Part-time Dalton resident Erik Johnson said, based on his experience as a technology expert at large companies reviewing hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts through the years, he is concerned because the HCA is not just a proposal, but a document with a space for signatures.

“What I would recommend the town to do, if for some crazy reason this contract were to move forward and the town were to justifiably want to negotiate rather than just accept what is handed to them by Casella, is hire a good contract attorney to negotiate terms rather than just accept what’s there,” said Johnson.

Negotiating quality-of-life, service-level agreements would be critical to the success of both the town and Casella to ensure the company is held to its obligations and there is financial remuneration to the town, above and beyond the normal payment for the use of the property that Casella is asking for, he said.

Johnson noted that two Casella representatives were on Wednesday’s remote meeting and said the company can take his recommendation as professional advice.

Listening remotely, but not speaking were Rebecca Metcalf, outreach coordinator for Casella, and Bryan Mills, enlisted by Casella as a public relations consultant and working for a company called Five Corners Strategies, which, according to its web site, specializes in “creating and managing grassroots public affairs campaigns.”

Dalton resident Jon Swan said for Dalton to save legal fees selectmen should not delve into the intricacies of the HCA until Casella submits a zoning application for town approval.

“It’s kind of like the cart before the horse,” he said.

The town does not yet have a total cost estimate to date of how much money has been spent from the municipal legal budget or other areas of the budget on Casella-related matters.

NH Parks and Recreation Division Rebuffs Casella Offer to Maintain Forest Lake State Park

Casella Waste Systems subsidiary North Country Environmental Services (NCES) recently made an offer of assistance to maintain Forest Lake State Park in Dalton NH. The offer was rejected. The correspondence below are the letters from Casella to NH Parks, the reply, and a recent letter to the editor of the Caledonian Record by Eliot Wessler.

Caledonian Record, Aug 27, 2020. Re-posted with permission.

To the Editor:

It did not look like Forest Lake State Park (FLSP) was going to open for the summer season due to state budget cuts that have hobbled NH’s Parks Division. But FLSP did open for July 4th weekend thanks to an incredible volunteer effort led by the Dalton Board of Selectmen and the Dalton Fire Department.

Soon after the opening, Casella sent a letter to NH’s Parks Division saying it wanted to help—specifically to help manage and improve FLSP. A response to Casella finally came on August 18th—Casella’s offer of help was rebuffed in a letter from Phil Bryce, the Parks Director, to a top Casella manager. This response didn’t take the usual tack of politely saying no thank you; it said NO WAY!

The Parks Division letter gives two reasons: 1) because Casella had already engaged in a strategy of trying to inappropriately box out the Parks Division from participating as an abutter in decision-making over Casella’s proposal to build a huge new landfill in Dalton, right next to FLSP; and 2) because FLSP is a state asset as well as a community asset, and it should be and will be the Parks Division that will make capital improvements.

Casella’s offer to help was seen by many as a Johnny-come-lately move, a cheap and transparent ploy to buy good will in Dalton and surrounding communities. Given the spirit of Mr. Bryce’s letter, it seems like NH’s Parks Division may feel that way too.

The good news out of all this is that despite state budgets cuts that might have kept FLSP closed for the season, FSLP is open for business, thanks to the efforts of many dedicated volunteers. In fact, attendance at the beach this year has been very good.

And the other bit of good news is that if and when Casella files permit applications at NH’s Department of Environmental Services (DES), Casella presumably now recognizes that it can’t buy the support of NH’s Parks Division. The vast majority of residents in Dalton and neighboring towns are determined to protect FLSP from the odor, scavenger animals, polluted water, and all the other environmental insults that would likely come to FLSP and the surrounding area if DES allows Casella to go ahead with its plans to build a huge new landfill right next to FLSP.

Vermont corporations please take note—NH’s North Country is not for sale.

Eliot Wessler

Whitefield, N. H.

Dalton: Public Comment Sought For Draft Zoning Ordinance

Bill To Prohibit Landfills Near State Parks Won’t Move Forward In 2020

The Caledonian-Record, June 9, 2020

Posted with permission

Robert Blechl

After nearly a year of public meetings by the Dalton Planning Board, which has been writing a zoning ordinance for a town that until last year did not have one, public comment is being invited for the draft zoning posted on the town web site.

The comment period closes June 26, planning board members said in a press release issued Sunday.

The draft ordinance is available on the town web site and hard copies will be available at the town office during regular business hours, and will also be available for viewing by appointment by calling 837-7027, ext. 10.

“Dalton residents are encouraged to provide feedback on this draft, and the Planning Board welcomes all constructive feedback (pro or con),” said planners.

Comments can be submitted online through the planning board website or by emailing [email protected], or delivered or mailed to Dalton Planning Board, 756 Dalton Rd., Dalton, NH 03598.

Town planners said they seek informal public comments as they recognize the difficulty of large public meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, and public participation via written feedback is encouraged.

When the final zoning ordinance is ready to go before Dalton residents for a vote, planners said there will be a notice of public hearing held prior to a town meeting.

In an update on the ordinance in March, Dalton planning board members said a vote would take place at a special town meeting later in 2020 or at the annual March town meeting in 2021.

The draft ordinance comes after a special town meeting vote in July 2019 in which residents voted 154-129 to adopt emergency temporary zoning in response to the proposed Casella Waste Systems landfill beside Forest Lake State Park.

Landfill Bill On Hold

Opponents of the landfill were hoping to have a some ammunition to fight it this year in the form of House Bill 1319, sponsored by state Rep. Elaine French, R-Littleton, which seeks to prohibit landfills within two miles of any state park.

Casella’s proposal is within that distance from Forest Lake State Park.

HB 1319 passed the New Hampshire House of Representatives in March and was expected to soon be taken up by the New Hampshire Senate.

In an email last week, however, a legislative aide notified Whitefield resident Sarah Doucette, member of the North Country Alliance for Balanced Change, that the bill will not be taken up by the Senate in 2020.

Doucette had written earlier to state Rep. Martha Fuller Clark, D-Portsmouth, to ask her if the bill would be considered this session.

“I spoke to the leadership staff and unfortunately due to the partisan vote on the bill out of the House, the bill will not be moving forward,” Jennifer Horgan, a legislative aide, wrote to Doucette on Wednesday.

Recent opposition to the bill came from the Androscoggin Valley Regional Refuse Disposal District, which runs the Mt. Carberry landfill near Berlin, and in a letter to the Senate in May said the legislation as written and without amendments would harm it and its member communities.

French plans to keep the bill moving forward and to address concerns.

“Provided I’m reelected, I will be resubmitting it and making sure it has the Carberry stamp of approval,” she said Monday. “If I’m not reelected, I will find somebody to reintroduce it.”

CALL TO ACTION: Please contact NH senators NOW to protect our state parks from abutting landfills

To all who enjoy NH state and national parks:

Imagine heading to your favorite state park in New Hampshire for some hiking, picnicking, or boating. 

You arrive and are greeted by:
– Foul odors of methane and garbage
– Mobs of seagulls 
– Trash on hiking trails and in the water
– The constant rumble and crash of heavy machinery

This scenario is likely to happen, as a large, out-of-state landfill company is attempting to put a dump right next to Forest Lake State Park in Dalton, New Hampshire. 

There is a way to prevent this, and we need your help.

House Bill 1319 was passed in the NH House of Representatives. This bill establishes a required 2 mile buffer between a state park and landfill development. This is a simple, common-sense way of ensuring these land uses don’t interfere with each other. The bill is due to be reviewed by the senate, but is in jeopardy in 2020 due to the abbreviated session as a result of COVID-19.

Will you please write a short email asking NH Senators to support HB 1319 during this session? Anyone who enjoys our parks can write in, regardless of where you live. 

Please see this page for a sample e-mail and addresses to use.

Thank you for your support of our natural, educational and recreational resources in New Hampshire!

Sample letter to NH Senators to support HB 1319

You can copy and paste the letter below into your e-mail client. Please change the first sentence to reflect your circumstances – and please add a sentence to personalize your email even a little personalization gives your message great impact.

You can use the following e-mail list to address the senators. It’s best to copy/paste this into the BCC: (blind carbon copy) address field in your e-mail client. This sends a copy to all recipients without allowing a reply-to-all.


[email protected][email protected][email protected]; [email protected][email protected][email protected]; [email protected][email protected][email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected][email protected][email protected]; [email protected][email protected][email protected]; [email protected][email protected][email protected]; [email protected][email protected][email protected]; [email protected][email protected]


Dear Senator,

(As a New Hampshire resident, a voter and an outdoor enthusiast,) I’m writing to urge you to support HB 1319, the bill to prohibit new landfills within two miles of any New Hampshire state park. 

This bill – passed by the NH House by a wide margin in March – will protect our treasured state parks from the environmental insults that come with dumps: foul odors, contaminated water, toxic spills, noise, incessant truck traffic and waste from seagull scavengers that fouls our lakes and streams.

I’m concerned about one park in particular:  the North Country’s Forest Lake State Park on the shores of pristine Forest Lake in Dalton. That’s where Casella Waste Systems – owner of the controversial Bethlehem dump – wants to build its next dump. 

HB 1319 will protect Forest Lake and all our state parks from the negative impacts of landfills…and help keep the North Country from turning into New England’s dump

For the sake of our children and our children’s children, I urge you to vote for HB 1319 in this year’s legislative session. 

Thank you for considering my opinion.  And thank you for your service to New Hampshire in this challenging time.

Sincerely,

Your name

Your address

Dalton: Man Sued By Casella Raises $6K In Fund-Raiser

Has Also Enlisted A First Amendment Attorney

The Caledonian-Record, April 27, 2020

Posted with permission

Robert Blechl

A Dalton man being sued by Casella Waste Systems for what the company alleges is his defamation of Casella has launched a fund-raiser to cover legal expenses that after three days after being online raised $6,000 toward a $10,000 goal.

On Friday, Jon Swan, a critic of Casella’s proposed 180-acre landfill beside Forest Lake State Park, set up his “Protect free speech and Forest Lake from Casella” campaign on gofundme.com.

On Monday, he said he now has his own attorney who has “a lot of experience with First Amendment cases.”

Swan, founder of the landfill opposition group Save Forest Lake, said he is not surprised by the $6,000 raised so far.

“It’s similar to Northern Pass, and I think this company’s reputation precedes it,” he said.

In his fund-raising campaign, Swan called Casella’s litigation “a PR stunt from a very desperate company … and a “frivolous SLAPP [Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation] lawsuit meant to harass and silence those opposed to their plans and presence.”

Casella’s lawsuit filed April 14 at Merrimack Superior Court in Concord also names as defendants the Forest Lake Association and up to 20 unnamed people in that group as well as in SFL.

The company alleges the intent of Swan’s campaign is to “disparage [Casella’s] reputation” by publishing false statements of fact” about the company and to prevent it from doing business in New Hampshire, and it alleges Swan made false statements “with the intent and effect of lowering Casella’s esteem in the community” and damaging its reputation in state government, and doing so with “ill will, hatred, hostility, or evil motive …”

As a result, the company alleges it “suffered harm to its reputation and business” and is entitled to a court declaration stating it has been defamed, damages for general harm to reputation without specific proof, and special damages for present and future damages.

Video

The lawsuit was filed one week after Swan created what he called a parody video, titled “Casella Waste Systems CEO Gets Bad News,” using a 4-minute segment from the 2004 German film “Downfall,” about the last days of Adolf Hitler’s life inside the bunker when he learned the Nazis had lost the Second World War.

In Swan’s video, which uses subtitles he wrote for the characters, Hitler is depicted as Casella CEO John Casella and Nazi military officers as several Casella employees.

In a bunker office where the characters are acting, Swan wrote a subtitle for one officer saying, “Mr. Casella, our situation in New Hampshire has become dire. We may have to ship trash to New York instead. This longer route will be costly. Word has gotten out about our bad reputation and we cannot fool anyone anymore.”

“What about Dalton?” Swan wrote for Hitler as John Casella. “They have no zoning. They are a small rural town.”

A tense moment passed between officers, before the Hitler character is informed Dalton voted for temporary, emergency zoning.

“You told me not to worry about the North Country!” Swan wrote in the subtitle for the Hitler character. “You said Ingerson and Gilbody had Dalton under control! You said Cliff Crosby could handle Bethlehem! The board of directors will be furious! Do you know how much money we will lose? John Gay, you said the lot line adjustment would be approved! And Kevin Roy, you said Bethlehem was under control! New Hampshire is supposed to be the center of our garbage empire!”

“But Mr. Casella, we did not know about Jon Swan,” said the first officer.

“Who the hell is Jon Swan?” Swan wrote for the Hitler character. “That sounds like a made-up name!”

“Sir, he rallied the people and formed Save Forest Lake,” said the first officer.

“Then start throwing false promises around and offer money!” Swan wrote in the subtitle for the Hitler character. “I want Forest Lake! These people mean nothing to me! We need a place in New Hampshire for Massachusetts trash! Do you know how much money we make from garbage? Send more mailers and have Cliff Crosby start another petition campaign! Host more family barbecues with pony rides! It is my destiny to make New Hampshire the heart of my garbage empire! I don’t care how you do it, form a new phony grassroots groups with clever names if you have to. We have worked so hard to fool so many host communities.”

After the Hitler character calms down, Swan wrote Casella as saying, “What can we do now? That lake is not that special. We could sue the pants off them like we’ve done elsewhere. We have expensive lawyers who are not dummies. Get the hell out of here, I want to cry.”

Online are a number of “Downfall” parodies that have been created by others using the same 4-minute film segment and they are found on a number of web sites, including on YouTube’s Hitler Rants Parodies channel. One such video includes the New England Patriots winning over the Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl 49 in 2015, to a fuming Hitler.

In an op-ed, John Casella said he has been in the solid waste management business for many years, but has never experienced “the kind of sustained, malicious attack on our company that Jon Swan of Dalton has carried out for nearly a year.”

“On April 7, though, Swan took his maliciousness to another level when he created and posted on the Internet a video portraying me as Adolph Hitler and Casella employees and other private citizens as Nazis,” wrote Casella. “This is not just tasteless, to stoop so low as to compare me to one of the greatest monsters in history and our company to the Third Reich, a regime guilty of the genocide of millions, all in an effort to win a community debate. This is the outright, vicious defamation of our organization and our people. It crosses the line into hateful, gutter politics.”

The company’s lawsuit states that Swan, who also goes by the name Jon Alvarez, has a “history of fomenting controversy through extreme and provocative public statements and conduct.”

The lawsuit states that before moving to New Hampshire, Swan lived in upstate New York, “where he formed what he called a ‘militia,’ held a contest on his talk radio program for best papier mâché pig made from the pages of the Koran, and posted a Facebook tribute to a pilot who flew a plane into a federal office building, killing himself and a federal employee.”

On Monday afternoon, Casella spokesman Joe Fusco was asked what the company thinks of Swan’s fund-raiser and Swan’s statement calling the company’s case a SLAPP lawsuit and was asked if Casella has any examples to date of how its business has been harmed by Swan’s statements, such as the loss of a contract or a loss or decrease in a revenue stream.

Fusco said the company has no opinion on Swan’s fund-raising, the legal action is for defamation and is not a SLAPP matter, and the company will present evidence of harm at trial.

Bethlehem: Public To Weigh In On Revised Landfill Expansion Application

Posted with permission.

New Plan Seeks To Lengthen Land-Filling Duration To 2026

Robert Blechl

The Caledonian-Record, April 20, 2020

After Casella Waste Systems in February pulled its application for landfill expansion in Bethlehem, one day before the state concluded it did not meet the public benefit requirement, the company has submitted a revised application that will once again go before residents at a public hearing.

On March 24, North Country Environmental Services, the New Hampshire subsidiary of Casella, submitted its amended application, which also proposes a longer duration of land-filling, lengthening it by several years and taking it to 2026.

The application for Stage 6 expansion is now under review by the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services to determine whether it is complete.

The department under New Hampshire’s solid waste management rules has 60 days from the March 24 submission to determine if it is complete, representatives with DES’s Solid Waste Management Bureau said last week.

Following a determination of completeness, DES will undertake a technical review of the application and schedule a public hearing to gather input from residents that will be included as part of the department’s decision-making process.

A decision on the application is due four months from its receipt, which might or might not be measured from the March 24 date of submission depending on the completeness of the initial application, or 30 days following a public hearing, whichever occurs latest, said DES representatives.

The time line for DES review can be extended with the consent of the applicant.

Because of the variables, DES representatives said they cannot provide a firm date by which a decision will be made.

The Stage 6 expansion seeks to add 5.7 acres to the current 47-acre landfill footprint that would extend to the east and south of the existing landfill.

If an approval comes in the next few months, NCES in its application states construction would begin later in 2020 and land-filling operations in the new cell would begin in early January and extend through 2026.

The previous Stage 6 application submitted in 2019 had lifespan of 2.3 years before capacity would be reached, then in about 2023.

In its revised application, NCES seeks the same waiver of New Hampshire’s solid waste management rules for a leak detection system and location system design standards, similar to the waivers approved in the Stage 4 permitting in 2013 and Stage 5 in 2014, Bob Grillo, project manager with the Casella-enlisted CMA Engineers, said in a letter informing the town of the new application.

Stage 6 would accept municipal solid waste, construction and demolition debris and special waste, with municipal solid waste making up 60 to 70 percent of the waste received at the Trudeau Road landfill, he said.

In February, DES determined that the initial Stage 6 application did not meet the state’s substantial public benefit requirement because its then proposed 400-ton annual waste disposal rate for 2.3 years would occur during a time when New Hampshire is projected to have excess disposal capacity and no regional or statewide capacity need.

In that application, DES concluded NCES was presenting “alternative calculations” on the amount of solid waste to be generated within the state during a 20-year planning period, a statewide shortfall in existing permitted disposal capacity is not projected by DES to occur until after 2025, and land-filling is the least preferred method of solid waste management under the state’s solid waste management statute.

In the revised application, Casella engineer John Gay said the public benefit demonstration has been updated to include 2018 annual facility reports.

According to the new application, the annual rate of fill will drop significantly from the previously proposed 400,000 tons a year to an average annual rate of 175,000 tons to reach the 2026 lifespan, in total taking in about 900,000 tons of waste.

In the application, the company states it “firmly disagreed” with DEC’s conclusion in February that the public benefit requirement was not met in the previous application, but “recognized that DES would not approve the 2019 application as submitted.”

The Stage 6 expansion includes the boundary of a new property Casella purchased in 2015.According to the revised application, company representatives said they anticipate DES approval of Stage 6 in September and phase one construction to be complete and capacity available in January 2021 and phase two of Stage 6, the eastern phase, to undergo construction in 2022 or 2023.

North Country: Casella Takes On Opponents In Defamation Lawsuit

The Caledonian-Record, April 14, 2020

Posted with permission

Lawsuit Respondent Says Case Is “Goliath Sues David” 

Robert Blechl

Taking on its opponents, Casella Waste Systems on Monday filed a defamation lawsuit against a Dalton man and two citizen groups opposed to a 180-acre landfill beside Forest Lake State Park in Dalton.

At Merrimack Superior Court, CWS filed suit against Jon Swan, also known as Jon Alvarez, the Forest Lake Association, and Save Forest Lake for what the company argues are damages “arising from Alvarez’s nearly year-long campaign on behalf of himself and the officers and participating members” of the Forest Lake Association and Save Forest Lake, who the company calls “Doe Defendants 1-20” and whose identities “are not yet known to [Casella].”

The company argues the intent of the alleged campaign is to “disparage [Casella’s] reputation by publishing and disseminating throughout the state of New Hampshire false statements of fact about the plaintiff online, in print, and in person.”

CWS, run by CEO John Casella, alleges the intent of Swan/Alvarez and the co-defendants “is to prevent [the company] from engaging in business in New Hampshire altogether and from developing landfill capacity in Dalton … and they have published a multitude of falsehoods to accomplish that goal, all of which are defamatory statements for which the law makes defendants liable.”

Casella also argues that Swan/Alvarez has sought to interfere in the company’s “prospective economic advantage.”

In addition, the company alleges that many of Swan’s/Alvarez’s statements have been directed to state executive branch officials and lawmakers in Concord “with the purpose of damaging Casella’s reputation in state government.

Swan/Alvarez, argues Casella, made false statements of fact and made statements “with the intent and effect of lowering Casella’s esteem in the community.”

After learning of the lawsuit on Tuesday, Swan said, “I stand by everything I’ve done, and when I have made error, I correct it. I try to make sure everything I say is supported by fact and data. I stand by what I’ve said.”

In the 16-page two-count defamation of character lawsuit, Casella asks the court to issue an injunction against the defendants to prevent them from “defaming” the company, issue an order declaring that the defendants have defamed the company with their words and conduct, and award the company monetary damages for compensation and reasonable attorney’s fees and costs.

The lawsuit was filed by two Casella attorneys who are also registered lobbyists for Casella.

Accusing him of  “relentless attacks and false statements” that have damaged Casella’s reputation and “infringed upon the livelihood and freedoms of the people of New Hampshire.” 

The new lawsuit against opponents in Dalton comes after previous lawsuits filed by Casella against the town of Bethlehem that were part of efforts to expand its landfill there that the company bought in the mid-1990s.

Recently, opposition to a new landfill in Dalton, as well as an expanded Casella landfill in Bethlehem, has extended beyond Swan and Dalton.

At town meeting in March, Whitefield residents voted almost unanimously to approve a resolution opposing a Casella Waste landfill at Forest Lake in Dalton that the article states would negatively impact the quality of life in Whitefield much more than in Dalton.

The resolution was sent to the governor and executive council, state senators and state representatives, and New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services.

Afterward, on March 16, the Sugar Hill Board of Selectmen wrote letter to the governor in support for the Whitefield resolution opposing the landfill, citing concerns of negative impacts from increased truck traffic, unwanted odors, and declining property values in Sugar Hill, where some of the landfill trucks pass through and have been stored overnight on a property.

Bethlehem voters in 2017 and 2018 voted against a proposal to expand the 61-acre Casella landfill to 161 acres, prompting the company to look elsewhere as it faces a landfill closure in Bethlehem in about 2026.

In July, Dalton residents, in a 154-129 vote at a special town meeting, approved temporary, emergency, zoning for Dalton in response to the proposed landfill.

In March, the New Hampshire House of Representatives, in 189-123 vote, passed House Bill 1319, sponsored by state Rep. Elaine French, D-Littleton, which seeks to prohibit the siting of new landfills or expanded landfills within two miles of the boundary of any state or national park.

Swan said he believes the defamation lawsuit could be an attempt to deflect and to defeat HB 1319.

“They lost in the House, they lost in Bethlehem, lost in Dalton twice, so they come after me,” he said. “Like I said all along, it’s like shooting fish in a barrel. I have been at war to save our lake and our state as I kept going down that rabbit hole called Casella. It will be an interesting trial. Goliath sues David.”