Back to square one.
That was the declaration by Bourne Board of Health chairman Kathleen M. Peterson Wednesday night, July 30, in reference to negotiations between the town and Harvest Power on use of a section of the town landfill for an alternative energy project.
“We’re back to where we should have been awhile ago. This is all brand-new, everything else is gone,” Ms. Peterson said.
Ms. Peterson’s comments were made relative to the nearly four-year-long negotiation process that the town has undertaken with Harvest Power, negotiations that health board members feel have not sufficiently included them. The issue came to a head at a joint meeting of the board of health and the Bourne Board of Selectmen on June 10 during which a negotiated lease between the town and Harvest Power was presented to the health board.
The agreement would have allowed Harvest Power to lease several acres at the town’s Integrated Solid Waste Management (ISWM) site off MacArthur Boulevard.
Harvest Power has proposed using a portion of the landfill for an alternative energy project that involves what is known as “anaerobic digestion” of organic materials. The process “digests” waste, including food waste, to produce biogas energy and saleable compost.
At last month’s meeting, Ms. Peterson criticized selectmen for not including her board earlier in the negotiating process with Harvest Power. Ms. Peterson told selectmen that because the board of health had to give its approval before the lease with Harvest Power could be signed, the health board should have been brought in sooner.
Attorney Mark C. Kalpin of the Boston law firm WilmerHale, who has represented the town in the negotiations with Harvest Power, said that the authority to sign the lease rests solely within the jurisdiction of the board of selectmen. It was that statement with which Ms. Peterson and the rest of the board of health took issue.
The board of health was given site assignment responsibility for the landfill in a document signed on June 27, 2005. A site assignment agreement details exactly what the state Department of Environmental Protection agrees can take place on the land.
Under Section VI of the site assignment contract, titled “Conditions Imposed by the Board,” there are 10 separate conditions established by the board of health. As stipulated by condition 10, the board of health, and only the board of health, has the authority to approve the transfer of operational responsibility to someone else.
“The operational responsibility for the site assigned areas shall not be assigned or transferred, in whole or in part, to another party, including an assignment or transfer to another department or board of the Town unless approved by a vote of the majority of the Board at a public hearing,” the document states.
Condition 10 goes on to stipulate that assignment or transfer includes but is not limited to “a lease, license, or other agreement related to the operation of the site assigned areas.”
The health board’s site assignment authority over the board of selectmen was confirmed by town counsel Robert S. Troy in a memo dated July 24.
Wednesday night, it was agreed that the next step is for Harvest Power to come in and give a presentation to board members.
“It’s like a brand-new company coming to town and they want to talk to the board of health,” Ms. Peterson said.
The board’s attorney, Steven A. Torres of Pannone Lopes Devereaux & West LLC in Providence, Rhode Island, advised that two meetings take place. The first meeting would be to determine the company’s qualifications to undertake the project and to manage the site at the landfill. Ahead of that meeting, he would instruct members as to what areas they could direct their questions to Harvest Power.
He also advised that the board issue a “Request for Information” that would provide the members with details about Harvest Power as a company.
“If they’re publicly held you might want their last year’s corporate filing with the SEC, or their report to shareholders,” he said.
Other areas the board can question Harvest Power on include the company’s other projects, if they have any projects that they did not complete and why they were not completed, if they had to pay damages for not completing a project or completing it late.
He suggested the board obtain any documents or records that “go to their ability to manage a site like this, go to their ability to be the applicant under the lease.”
He noted that the first meeting would not focus on the specific project Harvest Power plans to undertake at the landfill. Plan approval would come at a later meeting and only after the board approves Harvest Power’s qualifications, he said.
No date has been confirmed for that first meeting with Harvest Power. The board agreed to offer three possible dates to the company—August 18, 20, or 27.