When the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources decertified Grow Compost in Moretown as a solid waste facility without notifying the town of Moretown or the abutters, it set off a cascade of events culminating in all the players entering into mediation today, October 1.

Ben Gauthier, the ANR Solid Waste Management Program employee, said that it was an oversight that the neighbors and town were not notified of the July 13 decision to decertify the compost company. The request to decertify the compost facility came from Grow Compost and it was granted because the company “had ceased directly composting solid waste and instead had switched their process to feed all food scraps to laying chickens.”

ANR, in its revocation, noted that the remaining uneaten food scraps and chicken manure are composted on site. Feeding chickens is an agricultural activity and ANR argued that Grow Compost is composting only manures and high-carbon feedstocks, two activities over which the agency has no jurisdiction.

Moretown appealed the revocation and, with the neighbors, Grow Compost and ANR decided to pursue mediation in hopes of creating a process by which such certifications are revoked and also in hopes of a process by which neighbors and the town and the company can articulate concerns, protect the environment and communicate with each other.

Those are good things. But the fact that the mediation will take place behind closed doors makes us uneasy.

With the closure of Moretown Landfill and all the attendant issues of odor and water contamination plus the issue of composting and recycling with the passage of Act 148, the back and forth between the company and the neighbors over odors, the need for places to compost and the very real need for a public process around this all beg for the public to be able to watch and hear the position of participants (ANR in particular) during mediation.

It’s a very important discussion and one that the public would benefit from hearing. And that’s worrisome. Mediation to create a process is good and the process and its adoption will of course be public.

But the public will never know how that process was arrived at and what went into creating it.