05/17/2022 TSC Minutes
TOWN OF BETHLEHEM
2155 Main Street
Bethlehem, NH 03574
Minutes of the May 17, 2022 Meeting of the Transfer Station Committee
Betsey. Chris, Barry, Andrea and Nancy were present at the meeting. Margaret, Katherine and Julie attended remotely.
Barry volunteered to take the minutes of the meeting.
There was no public input when the meeting started. However, Allegra Wright later joined the meeting remotely, and supported the subject of the new edition of Just Be Greener on composting.
Barry moved to change the agenda order to move “other business” to the top of the list in order to discuss a May 11th decision of the Waste Management Council (Council), addressing the appeal of the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) of the NCES Stage VI landfill expansion permit. The Select Board recently discovered that a decision had been issued when a CLF press release was forwarded by Jon Swan. Barry obtained a copy of the decision and Chris had Nicole forward it to the Transfer Station Committee (Committee) members.
Barry was asked to describe the decision, and he prefaced his comments by noting that he is not a New Hampshire attorney, and that the decision was not entirely clear with respect to its potential consequences. He referred to the Conclusion of the decision, which affirmed the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services’ (NHDES) decisions regarding the Stage VI Permit in 7 of the 8 challenges addressed. However, the Council remanded the Permit to the NHDES Commissioner because the “Council has determined that NHDES acted unlawfully in finding the NCES Facility provided a substantial public benefit under RSA § 149-M:11, III when the NCES Facility was projected to operate during a period without capacity need.” The reason that it is not clear what impact, if any, the decision will have on the continued operation of the Stage VI expansion is, in part, due to a finding on Page 15, where the “Council determined that NHDES acted reasonably in granting the Permit even though, by NHDES’s own acknowledgment, the NCES Facility would operate during both a period of capacity excess and a period of capacity need.” Barry speculated that on remand NHDES might simply be able to correct the objectionable finding and allow the Permit and operation to continue. However, he also noted that when a case is returned to an administrative agency for further proceedings there is a potential for uncertainties.
At the time of the Committee’s meeting, there had been no reported statement or reaction to the Council’s decision either from NCES or the State. Chris mentioned that Thomas Irwin, a Director and attorney for CLF, has taken the position that since the Permit has been remanded, there is no operating permit in effect. Barry noted that if there was a threat to continued landfill operations during remand, NCES might pursue legal or administrative remedies, such as putting up a bond, to avoid a disruption of service. Andrea noted that many New Hampshire towns currently use the NCES landfill, and while she does not think there would be a sudden disruption of service, it is reasonable for the Town to be prepared. Chris and Barry similarly expressed the desirability of taking some proactive measures, even if the chance of a service disruption is small.
There was some discussion by Andrea and Julie about the last time that the Town was closed out of using the NCES Transfer Station in 2009, when NCES proposed to implement a large monthly rent to continue such usage, and the Town declined. Julie believes that the Town was given 30 to 60 days notice before its access to the Transfer Station was closed.
Chris noted that the Committee previously developed a comprehensive contingency plan with proposed actions and timetables when it was not certain whether the Stage VI expansion would be approved. He suggested giving consideration to having a temporary permit application in place, which he had previously prepared, and thinking about whether we should purchase pay-as-you-throw-bags. Some proactive suggestions were discussed, and there was a general consensus that the Select Board should consider sending a copy of the Council’s decision to the Town attorney, have a representative contact the Mt. Carberry landfill regarding a firmer commitment for usage in the event of an unanticipated NCES landfill closure, and having the Town contact a neighboring town to see if Bethlehem residents could use their transfer station for a few months while the Town pursued a more permanent solution. Barry noted that Littleton’s Transfer Station is not only the closest facility, but also a regional facility. The Tri-Town facility in Franconia is the next closest facility, with Whitefield and Carroll perhaps being other options. However, it is not clear whether the alternatives to Littleton’s facility would have adequate capacity. Barry noted that Bethlehem and Littleton should have a good relationship on this issue, because if the landfill is prematurely closed it is not due to Bethlehem. In fact, Bethlehem had entered into two settlement agreements with NCES in the past, with the life of the landfill being extended for years. Barry also noted that the Town of Dalton has purportedly changed from using the NCES landfill to the Mt. Carberry landfill, and that its tipping fee should be a matter of public record.
There was a discussion on whether the Town should pursue competitive bidding from third party contractors at this time, to meet the Town’s solid waste and recycling needs for a period of months in the event of a sudden, unanticipated landfill closing. Kathryn asked whether a scope of services had been prepared, and Chris acknowledged that he still had some draft bid documents containing scopes of services that had previously been prepared by Barry. Although no vote was taken on whether to recommend that such competitive bidding be commenced, Barry suggested that the Town attorney be consulted with respect to any potential bid documents, to insure that their wording is not prejudicial to the Town’s positions on NCES’s continued obligations under the settlement agreements with the Town.
Chris will bring up the Committee’s recommendations with the Select Board at a future meeting.
Barry brought up a possible new way for the Town to pursue the adoption of a bottle deposit law. He has approached the Conservation Commission with this proposal, because they have devoted a lot of effort in supporting the adoption of such a law. He has suggested the possibility of the Conservation Commission submitting an Opinion Editorial in a major New Hampshire paper, perhaps joined by the Select Board, challenging the New Hampshire Beveridge industry to support the adoption of a bottle deposit law. There are some reasons to believe that the Beveridge industry may now recognize that supporting such a law is in its interests. The Beveridge industry has commenced a nationwide advertising campaign on getting “Every Bottle Back” for recycling by the year 2030. Barry believes this is not possible without bottle deposit laws. Barry noted that Coca Cola has supported bottle deposit laws throughout Europe and in Australia, and that Coca Cola has a representative on the New Hampshire working group that is assisting the NHDES in adopting a new solid waste management plan. Barry stated that it is essential to get the working group to recommend a bottle deposit law. He suggested that in addition to writing an Opinion Editorial, a meeting might be set up with Coca Cola’s representative on the working group, along with a respectable consumer advocacy group, like the Conservation Law Foundation, to urge Coca Cola to support such a law. Barry made a motion that our Committee join the Conservation Commission in any opinion editorial approved by the Commission in support of a bottle deposit law. It was unanimously adopted.
Margaret, who was participating in the meeting remotely, notified the Committee in the chat box that she could hear us, but that she could not be heard by us. She wrote down that she voted “aye” in favor of the previous motion. However, about an hour and ten minutes into the meeting she had to leave the meeting, and did not vote on any further items.
Nancy updated the Committee on the possibility of setting up a swap shop in the basement of Super Secret Ice Cream’s new premises on Main Street. The owners informed her that they cannot donate such space during at least the first year of opening, since the business and renovation require the basement for storage. However, the Facebook swap shop site, set up by Julie, has attracted a number of followers and participants. Nancy noted that many swap shops, set up at transfer stations, are for small items. Larger items, however, could be accommodated through social networking. A transfer station swap shop could also have a bulletin board to direct persons to these larger items.
Due to the weather, the Committee did not visit the Route 116 former transfer station site, as previously planned, in the hour prior to today’s meeting. It was determined that such a visit occur at 5:30 PM, prior to the next Committee meeting. The next meeting date was set for Wednesday, June 15th, 6:30 PM at the Library.
Barry provided an update on the free technical services provided by the Center for Eco Technology (CET) to rek’-lis concerning food waste, recycling, and landfill diversion. Rek’-lis’s operations manager stated that CET provided a “ton” of valuable information, was “incredibly” helpful, and that he has assigned a specific employee to implement CET’s recommendations. Barry stated that he was particularly encouraged by these remarks, since rek’-lis was already a socially responsible business with respect to waste management.
Barry provided a brief update on the Recycle Right Campaign by the Northeast Resource Recovery Association (NRRA). The first short video produced by the Campaign was less than 2 minutes long, and explained source separation. Barry and Nancy both thought that this short would not be suitable as a short for a movie theater. Moreover, the last edition of Just Be Greener was also devoted to explaining source separation versus single stream recycling. Nancy and Barry will view the next NRRA short, likely addressing cardboard recycling, when it becomes available. Barry and Nancy noted that our Committee has been doing well on addressing many of the subjects on landfill diversion covered in the Campaign, such as textile recycling. Nancy noted that the last time she was at the bin, it was filled to the top, a day or two prior to its scheduled weekly pick-up on Tuesdays. Betsey and Barry noted that when they have been there on different days, the bin has been filled at different levels, indicating that the weekly pick-ups were occurring. Nancy again received praise from Committee members for a successful effort in diverting tons of textiles from land-filling to reuse and repurposing.
Barry noted that he had submitted a list to the Select Board, in his individual capacity, of possible uses for the remaining $74,000 of funds available under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARFA). He stated that 3 of his recommendations for consideration involved items that touch upon the charge of our Committee, and 2 were low cost items. The first item recommended for Select Board consideration was a 50% rebate, up to a rebate amount of $100, for composting equipment purchased by Town residents on and after a date set by the Select Board. The second item was to move toward a more paperless Town government by checking with Administrative staff as to equipment that might be helpful in reducing paper production and storage. The large cost item was to set aside up to $20,000 for an evaluation of the Route 116 transfer station site. If competitive bidding came up with an evaluation cost in excess of this amount, the capital reserve fund could be used for the difference. Barry had drafted a potential letter to the Select Board in the event that the Committee desired to endorse any of these 3 items for consideration. Recognizing that the Town has many competing needs that may have high priorities, the Committee decided to endorse for consideration the composting equipment rebate only. The Committee also expressed the desire that if such a program were approved, it be implemented in a way to keep administrative burdens at a minimum. Nancy suggested that there could be volunteers, such as from our Committee, to screen and verify the eligibility of any rebate prior to the Town issuing payment. Barry was authorized to revise his letter to reflect the Committee’s endorsement, and to send it to the Select Board.
The Committee unanimously approved the new Just Be Greener edition that addresses composting. It was decided that the next edition of Just Be Greener should address swap shops.
Nancy encouraged the Committee members to send her their completed equipment worksheets so that we can better set priority needs for a future transfer station. Barry noted that he had added two items to his worksheet – a baler and a power source. Nancy noted that one of the biggest issues is adequate storage space, but that we have a very large land area to satisfy this need.
The minutes of the April 19, 2022 meeting were approved, with Andrea not voting since she missed the meeting.
Nancy volunteered to take the minutes of the next meeting on June 15th.
The meeting was adjourned at approximately 8 PM.