Moretown Landfill (MLI) general manager Tom Badowski told town officials that the Agency of Natural Resources’ (ANR) denial of a variance request for Cell IV, “literally came out of left field.”

At an August 1 meeting of the Moretown Select Board, Badowski said he is currently working to “garner political clout” through a letter-writing campaign to elected state officials including the governor; he asked select board members to write individual letters in support of the project.

ANR denied MLI’s request for a variance from stream setback and groundwater isolation distance requirements for the proposed fourth cell. If approved, the fourth cell will add 16 to 20 years of capacity to the landfill.

The permitting process for the proposed fourth cell began in 2003; Badowski said he had “no inkling” that the denial letter was coming when a staffer from ANR hand delivered the letter two weeks ago.

“It’s not a good development for MLI, but if I quit every time a regulator told me ‘no’ I’d be out of business,” he said.

Badowski said the decision was likely administrative and not technical: “Our sense is that something happened; that’s what I believe, not what I know. It was a decision outside of the technical; that’s why we’re trying to meet with the governor and political folks and let them hear our voice. Nobody wants a state with one landfill; for them to say that there is no benefit to the citizens of Vermont is just ludicrous.”

MLI was required to show that the hardship it would face in complying with the Solid Waste Management Rule is greater than the benefits that the public receives from applying the rule as written. MLI failed to demonstrate any actual hardship, according to the decision.

“We asked for a variance to current regulations. They have granted us that type of variance three times over the last 20 years,” Badowski continued.

In the decision dated July 15, ANR denied the request for a variance that would have “allowed for the destruction of wetlands and the resulting project would be within the isolation distances established in the solid waste rules for surface water, bedrock and groundwater.”

If appealed, the decision would go to the Vermont Environmental Court. “Political support may not do anything with ANR, but if and when it goes to environmental court it would be a tremendous asset to us; it’s just technical and not political at that point,” Badowski said.

Select board chair John Hoogenboom said, “We’ve got to rally the other towns” to support the Cell IV permitting process.

Badowski said that one of the issues was the distance to the streams. “When we did mitigation, we put land here in town in conservation and sat down with regulators and told them that we’ve got wetlands within the isolation distance and we don’t need to disturb them. We’d rather just leave them functioning as they are functioning.”

In addition, Badowski said, the decision came from the secretary and commissioner’s office and included a combination of responses, which is atypical.

“There are usually letters written by technical folks; it’s a technical document. We never thought this letter was coming, to be honest with you. This has taken us by surprise and so that’s what this week is—we’re weighing our options,” he continued.

Town officials suggested bringing the issue up at the August 29 public forum and inviting the governor to attend.

 The next meeting of the Moretown Select Board is scheduled for Monday, August 15, at 6 p.m.