Who Does DES Work For?
To the Editor:
By now everyone who reads this newspaper has an opinion on Casella’s plan to build another landfill in the North Country. And it’s clear that the vast majority of North Country residents want New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services to deny permits for the Granite State Landfill project in Dalton, to prevent the North Country from becoming the dump for all of New England.
Unfortunately, DES recently made it a whole lot easier for Casella’s proposed GSL project to get a wetlands permit, even though the project will result in destruction of 17 acres of wetlands and five vernal pools, clear-cut over 100 acres, put at risk contamination of our cherished lakes and rivers, and put at risk contamination of drinking water for hundreds, if not thousands, of North Country residents.
The DES decision in late August that made it easier for GSL to get a wetlands permit didn’t pass the smell test for lots of people.
That prompted DES to do two things: DES staff gave a press interview saying that nothing nefarious was going on, and it scheduled a “Public Information” session to answer questions from the public but only questions about their permitting “process,” no direct questions about the dump.
That session, held late in September, lasted five hours, but not all of the public’s questions were answered. In fact, in many respects, DES’ responses raised more questions than answers.
North Country residents concerned about the environmental and quality of life impacts of GSL want and need answers to their questions. And there is a lot of concern that NHDES will now clam up, arguing that it answered questions for five hours.
DES was very clear at the information session that while it has an obligation to the applicant (GSL) only, it is under no obligation to answer questions from the public, either under statute or its own rules.
What DES does not make clear is that nothing in statute or rules prevents it from answering questions from the public.
By favoring the applicant and virtually ignoring the public, it is exercising discretion, and seemingly always in favor of the landfill developer over the public.
Which begs the question: Who does DES work for? The evidence so far is that DES will bend over backwards to help an out-of-state corporation get a do-over on its wetlands application and will coddle the applicant on its other permit applications. On the other hand, DES says it does not have the time or resources to answer questions from the public.
New Hampshire taxpayers deserve better. Opponents of the project think the project is highly flawed—there already is ample landfill capacity, so it is the wrong time for another landfill to be permitted; and it is obviously the wrong place to build one when it is needed.
All we ask is the chance to be in the conversation with DES, because we know the evidence is overwhelming that the GSL project is one of the dumbest, if not the dumbest idea to come before DES.
Whitefield, N. H.