New Hampshire House passes construction & demolition debris disposal bill

Measure would allow use of gasification process to create ash


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Can you turn construction and demolition debris into ashes to be buried in a landfill without burning it? The state of New Hampshire might soon find out.

On Tuesday, the NH House passed House Bill 1515, which would allow the pyrolysis, or gasification, of C&D waste.

The state banned incinerating the waste (except in small quantities) for over a decade.

But pyrolysis is not burning. It is chemical treatment of carbon-based fuel at high temperature, which creates a gas, which then can be burned. Furthermore, backers of the bill said that only “clean wood” would be burned, while contaminated wood would be extracted. Therefore the ash produced would be cleaner as well.

“It is simply enabling legislation that can have many economic benefits if it can be done safely,” said Rep. Greg Smith, R-Pelham, who argued that it will “produce green energy for a green economy.”  

But critics have been skeptical about turning C&D debris into ash ever since the Department of Environmental Services permitted a firm called Bio Energy to do so in Hopkinton, allowing it to emit more lead into the atmosphere than all other stationary sources combined. The DES withdrew the permit following community uproar, and the state banned C&D incineration in 2007.

But the alternative has been to landfill C&D waste, an expensive disposal method that has its own environmental drawbacks. Thus the DES is interested in trying something new.

But Rep. Bob Backus, D-Manchester , in a minority report written in the House calendar that so far pyrolysis has been mainly used on green wood, not C&D. The latter, he wrote, can have many toxic elements, including arsenic, mercury and asbestos that can lead to health problems. And Rep. John Mann, D-Alstead, while “welcoming” a new technology, argued on the House floor that New Hampshire’s citizens do “not wish to be guinea pigs for an experiment.”

The House sent it to the Senate on a 182-147 vote.

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