AUGUSTA- The Maine Department of Environmental Protection has issued a draft denial of the Municipal Review Committee, Inc.’s application for a public benefit determination for a proposed new landfill in Argyle or Greenbush after a thorough review process.

In the draft denial, which was issued last Wednesday, Sept. 24, the department found the MRC’s evaluation of disposal capacity was substantially influenced by its stated need for a landfill under its ownership and control rather than a factual analysis of the disposal capacity available within and near the MRC service area in the short- and long-term.

Ina press release, the DEP said it reviewed all public benefit determinations under the statutory specific review criteria, which include that the proposed facility meets immediate (within the next 3 years), short term (within the next 5 years), or long term (within the next 10 years) capacity needs of the state; that the proposed facility is consistent with the state’s solid waste management hierarchy; that the proposed facility is not inconsistent with local, regional, or state waste collection, storage, transportation, processing, or disposal; and (only if the facility proposes to accept waste not generated in the State of Maine) that operation of the facility would be precluded or significantly impaired if the waste is not accepted.

The department found that there is sufficient existing disposal capacity, and so a new landfill would be inconsistent with the State’s solid waste hierarchy, which puts landfilling last. The draft denial also finds that MRC’s proposal for a new landfill would be inconsistent with existing local and regional waste management.

The department strongly encouraged the MRC to continue to pursue a regional approach to increase waste diversion without relying on its own landfill. The department supports MRC’s vision for an integrated waste management system and is open to future discussions and necessary permitting once MRC decides on the components of the system. The DEDP added that it looks forward to actively working with municipalities and regional waste associations to find integrated waste management strategies.

The plan by the MRC, the quasi-municipal organization that represent the more than 180 Maine communities that dispose of their trash at the PERC plant in Orrington, is a response to what lies ahead in the near future. In 2018, when the current MRC contract with PERC expires, PERC will lose subsidies for energy it sells to Emera, and it is feared that waste disposal costs could go through the roof, perhaps to double or more the current rate. That led the MRC to search for sites for a new landfill/facility, with purchases option agreements in place in both Argyle and Greenbush. The determination of public benefit was the first step in siting of such a facility.

The MRC plan had been controversial from the beginning, with both the Argyle and Greenbush sites panned by many people, primarily local, opposed to the project. Numerous concers were raised, inlcuding the effects the facility would have on traffic, air and water quality, and land values.

The DEP held a brief open comment period on the draft denial that ended on Wednesday of this week. A final decision by the DEP should follow in the near future.

What would happen with local trash if the DEP, as is likely, issues a final denial of public benefit to the MRC is uncertain. The DEP said there are several options that could be considered, such as continuing negotiations with PERC; use of capacity at other landfills, including Juniper Ridge Landfill in West Old Town; and the East Millinocket mill site for the waste processing facility, with trash to go to the Dolby and/or Carpenter Ridge landfills.

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