AUGUSTA (AP) — Maine’s Board of Environmental Protection on Thursday reaffirmed a decision to allow expansion of the Juniper Ridge Landfill in Old Town, rejecting arguments that the 9.35 million cubic yard expansion is not needed.

The board voted unanimously to uphold an appeal of a January decision by the state Department of Environmental Protection allowing the landfill to expand.

Edward Spencer of Old Town filed the appeal, arguing that even with steady economic growth, many other solutions are available to reduce the volume of waste in Maine. Spencer said after Thursday’s decision that he had not decided whether to appeal the board ruling to state Superior Court.

The state-owned landfill, operated under contract with Casella Waste Systems Inc., accepts the byproducts of waste-to-energy plants, construction and demolition debris, and other waste generated in Maine. The state acquired the site in 2003 to help preserve jobs at Old Town paper company that needed more disposal capacity. The state derives no income from the landfill.

Its operation has long been a subject of controversy extending from Old Town, about 10 miles north of Bangor, to the State House in Augusta.

Besides traffic, dust and noise some Old Town residents say are byproducts of the landfill, Spencer said he’s bothered by the fact that the expansion was rejected in 2010 by the DEP, during the administration of Democratic Gov. John Baldacci. In January, under the administration of Republican Gov. Paul LePage, the expansion was approved.

“And so, two years later, with a new administration, they come back with basically the same application and it goes from being resoundingly turned down on all counts … to be resoundingly supported in 2012,” Spencer said.

The state and Casella countered that Spencer has not shown that he’s suffered any harm from the expansion. They also disputed claims that waste disposal needs will diminish, saying in their written arguments that not expanding “could lead to a solid waste management crisis in Maine” that would create problems for businesses and municipalities, which must have long-term plans for waste disposal.

State officials estimate the landfill will accept 700,000 tons a year in future years.

Juniper Ridge came up in a separate venue Thursday, as the Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee agreed to delay a decision on whether to order a review of agreements related to the operation and management of the landfill. The review by the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability would cover contracts between the state and landfill operator Casella.

Among the issues that could be addressed is how much waste comes to Juniper Ridge from other states.

Juniper Ridge also came up late in the 2012 legislative session in the form of a bill that sought to facilitate the closing of a trash-to-energy plant in Biddeford by transferring ownership of Juniper Ridge from the state to Casella. The bill was killed, but is expected to come back when the new Legislature is seated next year.


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