Effingham—July 6, 2023—Effingham’s Planning Board this year has received a variety of letters from individuals, municipal officials and conservation organizations opposed to the Meena LLC gas station application.
After being asked by Freedom resident Marie Hanson at the board’s June 13 hearing whether the letters had been read, each board member assured her they had. Now the public is reading them as well.
Former Effingham official Knute Ogren’s June 5 letter asking the Planning Board to deny the application gained attention last week because of his early role in the Meena matter. Other letters of opposition are notable for different reasons.
Effingham resident Lorie Dunne has written three letters, two of them this year. The most recent one, on April 28, includes this:
“I worked as a geologist and project manager for a company that killed 11 people and created the largest oil spill and man-made ecological disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, with costs in excess of 6 billion dollars in the attempt to remediate.”
She was referring to the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which she said was caused by people ignoring the fact that even the best planned systems can fail. She sees a parallel in Meena’s focus on “fail safe” underground tanks and equipment while downplaying accidents and human error.
“Meena has demonstrated it does not do due diligence or follow regulatory requirements,” she wrote, adding “I have no reason to believe they would be a vigilant business partner regarding safe operations in our town.”
Like Dunne, long-time Ossipee resident Dana Simpson has professional credentials that inform his opinions, including 30 years as an environmental consultant during which he oversaw more than 800 hazardous waste sites. He too takes issue with Meena’s fail-safe argument.
“While precautionary measures may reduce the risk of a gasoline release, accidents still happen, and systems eventually fail,” he wrote to the board on May 9, asking it to reject the application.
“My professional license required that I held human health paramount in all of my decisions. I hope that the town will do the same to protect our aquifer,” Simpson concluded.
Former State Representative Susan Wiley of Sandwich wrote on May 9 that she served on the N.H. House Committee on Environment and Agriculture and was familiar with “complicated situations where carefully tailored legislation was required.”
Saying the town’s prior work to protect its water resources with an ordinance containing a zone prohibiting gas stations was “adequate and appropriate.”
“Allowing this project to move forward appears to me to be a case of putting the profit for a business above the safety of people and the care of the earth for years to come,” she said.
Sheldon Perry has written several letters as Chairman of Tamworth’s Planning Board. His May 10 letter expressed concern about the lack of timely information being provided to towns like his, which have Development of Regional Impact abutter status.
He wrote that the Tamworth board continues to stand by a letter it wrote a year ago saying the proposed development is a prohibited use, and approval of the gas station will “set a precedent that will encourage further inappropriate developments.”
Precedent was also on the mind of Mark Longley, a retired chemist and the coordinator of Sandwich’s Water Quality Assessment program.
In a June 1 letter, Longley noted there is “watershed interdependence” among the ten Development of Regional Impact communities in the Meena matter. He said “abating an ordinance in one town opens the door to similar actions in other towns in the watershed.”
“Many people in my town share the opinion that Effingham should be a positive example in standing up for the laws protecting our people and environment,” he concluded.
Rachel Rouillard, State Director of The Nature Conservancy in New Hampshire, pointed to the problems the state has experienced with petroleum contaminants in the past 15 years, and the susceptibility of the Ossipee Aquifer to contamination.
“It is critical…that the residents of Effingham and the surrounding towns that rely on the Ossipee Aquifer for their drinking water should be carefully considered as you evaluate this proposal and identify alternatives that may pose fewer risks,” Rouillard wrote to the board on June 12.
Dr. Robert Newton has written five letters to Effingham officials, two of them this year. His company, Geoscience Solutions LLC, represents Ossipee property owners Tammy McPherson and Bill Bartoswicz, whose homes and wells are next to the Meena property.
Newton’s opinions are widely known, due in part to Meena’s aggressive attempts to prevent him from being heard. After Meena’s attorney publicly disparaged him as having “zero relevant experience,” and its chief engineer called his opinions “reckless,” Newton wrote that the company’s latest plan fails to protect the public’s health, safety and welfare in four critical ways.
Meena backed off its criticism after the Planning Board’s independent advisor, North Point Engineering, sided with the geoscientist on a number of issues, and design changes were proposed. But on June 13, Newton wrote again to the board, stating that Meena’s engineers were still wrong on key issues involving stormwater management, “subcatchment delineation” and erosion and slope stability.
Newton has also repeatedly reminded the Planning Board that DES is relying on the town to determine whether a gas station at the Meena site is an environmental threat because the state agency has no authority to make that decision. His June 13 letter again reiterated that point.
A search of all emails and letters made public by the Planning Board since August of last year did not reveal any letters of support for the Meena LLC gas station proposal.
Note: The next hearing will be on Tuesday, July 11, at 6:30 p.m., at Effingham Elementary School. A chronology of the Meena LLC case and all documents are at https://bit.ly/meenagas.