John Casella’s Letter to Dalton - Reading Between the Lines

To the Editor:

Casella’s Chairman and CEO sent an open letter last week to the residents of Dalton” … to inform you of (Casella’s) intentions to withdraw our wetlands permit application … and to resubmit in 2022.” He reached out directly by letter, he said ” … so you would read it from me.”

Well now we’ve had a week to read his letter and if you’re like me, his letter raises a number of troubling questions.

For example:

First, he says: “This decision (to withdraw the application) was not made lightly as it comes at a significant cost to our company … ” What significant cost? He doesn’t say, but one thing is clear-DES told Casella in no uncertain terms that it is not going to review the GSL permit applications until Casella does all of the hydrogeological (and other) field testing that DES requires. So it seems the cost Mr. Casella would have preferred to avoid is the cost of the testing that DES says it needs to determine if the GSL project meets the state’s safety and environmental standards.

Second, the letter says that the permit withdrawal ” … will allow us to take into consideration the public opinion that we have gathered, and will continue to solicit, throughout this process.” Is it really possible that Casella hasn’t yet considered the overwhelming opposition to GSL, from thousands of NH residents, dozens of NH Legislators, and referendums and proclamations from virtually all of the affected towns in the North Country? It doesn’t seem like Casella should need more time to gauge public opinion, given, e.g., the July 14th Public Hearing, where over 50 residents spoke out against GSL, and only a handful spoke out in support.

Focusing just on Dalton, most people think a healthy majority of Dalton residents oppose GSL, but there are some supporters. It’s regrettable that the most vocal supporters in Dalton have employed smarmy tactics, including spreading false information, and attacking the integrity and competence of Dalton’s town officials.

Casella’s silence on these tactics, and the fact that Casella is quick to slap its opponents with defamation suits suggests that this may be just a case of the apple not falling far from the tree.

Third, the letter says: “GSL will have an opportunity to perform additional field work to support the multiple applications.” To which we should all say: “Good, do it”.

And this time around maybe Casella will not prohibit Dalton’s wetlands expert from doing the field testing that he believes is necessary to provide the town of Dalton with an accurate picture of the environmental damage that a landfill at the GSL site will cause.

Fourth, Mr. Casella says: “We have confidence in our permitting and compliance teams … ” I’m glad he does, but this begs the questions: Are these the same permitting teams that told DES and the public that GSL’s design is so good that contamination of surface and groundwater was impossible? “Can’t happen” is what DES and the public were told. And are these the same compliance teams that racked up multiple violations at Casella facilities in NH and all over the Northeast? And will GSL use the same teams that presided at the Bethlehem landfill-the teams that allowed overfilling and denied to DES it ever happened, and allowed a 154,000 gallon leachate spill that took two days to discover? One surely hopes not!

And finally, the letter says: ” … the reality is that New Hampshire will be facing a waste disposal capacity shortfall based on its current permitted capacity.” That’s Mr. Casella’s opinion, but it is an opinion not even necessarily shared by DES.

Given the existing capacity and the planned capacity that exists at the Mt. Carberry and Tmnkey landfills, there is no crisis. A more accurate statement of reality is that Casella is in crisis because without GSL, and with the Bethlehem landfill closing, Casella is unlikely to be able to sustain the profits its NH operations have been generating. If Mr. Casella really thinks there is a solid waste capacity crisis in NH and wants to do good for our state, the best thing he can do is to rethink Casella’s business model and stop the plan to fill up NH’s solid waste capacity with so much trash fro1n other New England states.

I am certain that Casella will find fau]t with a lot of what I’ve said here. If so, the grassroots organizations that oppose the GSL project are prepared to engage in public debates with Casella on these or any other topics. Debate is healthy, and if Mr. Casella has the confidence evinced in the letter that GSL is” … of vital importance to New Hampshire’s health and environmental safety infrastructure … “, he should want that public debate to take place.

Sincerely

Paul Damiano

Dalton, N.H.

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