This is the HTML version of testimony submitted by Environmental Health Strategy Center

28 March 2006

To: Senator Cowger, Representative Koffman & Members of the Joint Standing Committee on Natural Resources

Fr: Michael Belliveau, Executive Director, Environmental Health Strategy Center

Re: LD 141  --  State Policy on the Burning of Construction Waste

Thank you for your hard work in determining the right policy action to regulate the burning of construction and demolition (C&D) waste in Maine.

As you know, there is tremendous public concern and media interest in the growing amounts of construction and demolition debris disposed of in Maine.  Just yesterday, more than 40 citizens traveled to the State House as part of the Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine to talk to their legislators about the need to restrict burning of construction waste, and other issues.

We fully respect the authority of the Legislature to decide policy and set standards to restrict the burning of C&D waste.  It would be unfortunate, however, if you also created a public perception that you are settling for substantially weaker standards than those that are presently under consideration by the Board of Environmental Protection (BEP).

The public is looking for assurance that the incineration of construction waste will be regulated in a manner as protective as feasible of public health and the environment.  They want you to put Maine people first, ahead of the interests of the waste industry, power plants and out-of-state waste generators.

We strongly prefer that you let the BEP rule making on the beneficial reuse of waste run its logical course to conclusion, since it is almost at the finish line.  Much work has already been done to balance the public interest with private industry and out-of-state interests.  It's also important to avoid setting a policy precedent that confuses the roles of the Department of Environmental Protection, which can only propose regulations, and the Board of Environmental Protection which must adopt regulations after a public process.

  Of course, any rule-making process derives from the statutory authority granted by the Legislature.  Therefore, if a majority of the Committee wishes to set a specific policy direction in mid-stream of the rule-making process, we strongly recommend that you incorporate the following policy decisions into any revision to LD 141:

  1. Adopt the proposed fuel content limit of not more than 50% construction waste

This is a very important policy call.  If you wish Maine to become the dumping ground for construction waste from throughout New England, then no limit is needed.  If you wish to allow existing Maine mills and power plants to lower their fuel costs while increasing the amount of construction waste they can burn as fuel, then a 50% limit provides a very generous allowance.  Much tighter restrictions are justified if you wish to minimize reliance on out-of-state construction waste and halt expanded burning at new facilities.  The 50% limit is a reasonable compromise between these two extremes.

2. Require DEP to report back on the feasibility of requiring mandatory source separation and state-of-the-art processing to achieve greater removal of toxic materials

The public opposes the incineration of the toxic materials in poorly sorted construction waste, not the burning of clean wood waste only.  This concern is justified since current policy (and proposed regulations) do not ensure that construction waste derived fuel consist of clean wood only.  The Board of Environmental Protection is considering fuel quality standards that are more restrictive on the toxic content of construction waste than those originally proposed by the Department of Environmental Protection.  That's a positive development in the rule-making that's directly responsive to public comments.

  If the Legislature intends to adopt construction waste burning standards in statute, in lieu of Board rules, then you should also insist that more work be done to detoxify the fuel.  This can be accomplished by two policy actions:  (1) require source separation at the point of demolition where the waste is generated to ensure that most toxic components are removed in advance to the extent feasible; and (2) require waste processors to use X-ray fluorescence (XRF) or other known technologies to identify and sort out components of the waste stream that contain lead, arsenic, chromium, chlorine (from PVC plastic) and other toxic elements.

  If you are going to adopt fuel quality standards that are weaker (less protective) than those under consideration by the Board of Environmental Protection, then you should at least require DEP to analyze the feasibility of achieving more protective standards through source separation and improved processing technology, with a report back to you for possible action next year.

3. Require an assessment of the feasibility of requiring BACT for all boilers burning construction waste in order to minimize toxic air emissions.

The Legislature should require Best Available Control Technology (BACT) for all burning of construction waste in Maine.  Construction waste is at present an inherently dirtier fuel than virgin wood and market forces are driving the trend toward burning more and more construction waste.  This has resulting in an increase in hazardous pollutants in air emissions and ash disposal.  This is equivalent to a major modification of an existing facility that should properly trigger New Source Review and upgraded air emission controls.  Tighter air emission controls should be mandatory to offset these increases.

Encouraging new facilities that burn 100% construction waste is not a sound way to minimize toxic air emissions from construction waste incineration.  New facilities should be discouraged to avoid cumulative impacts and increased burning of out-of-state waste.

Instead, air emission controls should be upgraded on existing facilities that are burning more of the dirtier construction waste fuel.  Such upgrades to Best Available Control Technology should follow from a careful feasibility assessment in which all the environmental, public health and economic benefits and costs can be evaluated with full public participation.  The DEP should report back to you for possibly policy action on this issue next year.

Conclusion

Thank you for once again for all your efforts to craft sound public policy on construction waste.  We look forward to supporting policy actions on construction waste that best serve the people of Maine.

    Michael Belliveau, Executive Director Environmental Health Strategy Center P.O. Box 2217, Bangor, Maine 04402 tel (207) 827-6331  cell (207) 631-5565  fax (207) 827-5755 www.preventharm.org mbelliveau@preventharm.org  

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