Information Regarding the August 5, 2020 Public Hearing: Variance Petition from Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics

Information Regarding the August 5, 2020 Public Hearing

Variance Petition from Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics

  1. What is the purpose of the variance petition?

Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics (“Saint-Gobain”) requested a variance of the February 11, 2021, deadline (“Deadline”), set pursuant to RSA 125-C:10-e and the terms of Temporary Permit No. TP-0256 (the “Permit”) issued on February 11, 2020 by the Department of Environmental Services, Air Resources Division (“Department”), to complete construction and installation of a Regenerative Thermal Oxidizer (“RTO”).

Saint-Gobain has requested that a variance be granted for one year from the Deadline, such that it is extended until February 11, 2022, or in the alternative, for one year from the date of a final, non-appealable order disposing of the Town of Merrimack’s appeal of the Permit to the NH Air Resources Council (NH ARC Appeal Docket No. 20-05 ARC – Town of Merrimack, NH Appeal), whichever is earlier.

  1. Can I comment on the variance petition?

Pursuant to the NH Code of Administrative Rules, Part Env-C 200, Rules of Practice and Procedure, and Part Env-A 200, Procedural Rules, NHDES provides an opportunity for public comment on variance petitions, including a hearing for the public to provide oral or written testimony.

NHDES is currently soliciting written comments from the public regarding the variance petition from Saint-Gobain.  Pursuant to Env-A 202.05, Notice of Petition, a public notice soliciting comments was published on the NHDES website and in the Union Leader on June 15, 2020.  Additionally, the notice was published in the Merrimack Journal on June 26, 2020. The public notice was also sent to the Towns of Bedford, Hudson, Litchfield, Londonderry, and Merrimack.  The public notice states that NHDES will accept written comments until Wednesday August 5, 2020.

As stated above, NHDES will also conduct a public hearing.  This hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, August 5, 2020 at 6:00 p.m. However, please read below regarding important information on registration for the hearing.

  1. How do I comment on the variance petition?

You may comment on the variance either (1) in writing, or (2) orally at the August 5, 2020 public hearing.

 How to submit written testimony/comments: If you cannot or do not wish to participate in the August 5th public hearing, written comments may be submitted but must be received by NHDES prior to 4:00 p.m. on Wednesday, August 5, 2020. Comments may be sent via regular mail, or by email to the following:

NHDES – Air Resources Division
Attn: Catherine Beahm
PO Box 95
Concord, NH, 03302-0095

OR

Catherine.Beahm@des.nh.gov

 How to submit oral testimony: You can provide oral testimony at the August 5, 2020 public hearing. Further information on how to register is provided in #5 below.

At typical hearings, those wishing to provide oral testimony fill out a testimony card when entering the hearing room.  The cards are collected at the start of the hearing, and those providing testimony are called up in the order that the cards are received.  However, this public hearing will be conducted online.  NHDES will provide instructions during the hearing on how to sign up to provide oral testimony at the hearing.  Please note that anyone who wishes to provide oral testimony at the hearing will be required to provide their name, address, and whom they represent (see Env-C 205.07, Testimony at an Oral Public Hearing, available at: https://www.des.nh.gov/organization/commissioner/legal/rules/documents/env-c200.pdf)

NHDES will be conducting the hearing using GoToWebinar® virtual meeting software.  As noted in #5 below, anyone wishing to attend the hearing will need to pre-register to obtain a unique internet link that the registrant will use to join the hearing.  NHDES is requesting in the registration that registrants indicate whether or not they intend to provide oral testimony during the hearing.  The purpose of this registration question is to give NHDES an estimate on the number of people wishing to speak so that it can conduct the hearing in an efficient manner.  The response to the registration question regarding whether or not the registrant intends to provide oral testimony does not commit the registrant to doing so if they answer ‘yes’, nor will it preclude them from providing oral testimony if they answer ‘no’ but then later decide that they do want to provide oral testimony during the hearing.

In order to ask questions or provide oral testimony, you will need to join the webinar from a computer or an iOS, Android and Windows Phone mobile device.  While the GoToWebinar® platform that NHDES will be using for this hearing provides capability for attendees to listen in by calling a phone number provided in the registration confirmation, those who join that way will only be able to listen.  Phone audio-only attendees will not be able to ask questions or provide oral testimony.  Therefore, please make arrangements to join the hearing via a computer or an iOS, Android or Windows Phone device if you want the opportunity to ask questions or provide oral testimony during the hearing.  Further instructions on how to register for and attend the hearing are provided in #5 below.

Please note that, depending on the number of people wishing to provide oral testimony, the hearing officer may need to limit the time of each person to ensure everyone has an opportunity to speak.  Once everyone who wishes to provide oral testimony has done so, if time allows, NHDES will ask those (who needed more than the initially allotted time) if they wish to provide further oral testimony.

NHDES also wishes to note that if a person provides oral testimony on a particular point, additional testimony that is similar in nature is not necessary.  In other words, NHDES evaluates the substance of the comment, whether it is provided by one person or several people.

        4. Do written comments carry more weight than oral testimony, or vice versa?

While not required, those who provide oral testimony are also encouraged to provide their testimony in writing.  However, all comments, whether received in writing or at the public hearing, carry equal weight.

  1. How do I participate in the August 5, 2020 public hearing?

Due to the State of Emergency declared by the Governor as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and in accordance with the Governor’s Emergency Order #12 pursuant to Executive Order 2020-04, the public hearing will not be held in person, and will instead conducted using GoToWebinar® virtual meeting software.  Note that you are not required to download GoToWebinar® to your computer for you to participate.

For this reason, and in order to get a sense of the number of attendees and potential commenters to help ensure the hearing is conducted smoothly for everyone’s benefit, NHDES is requesting that participants assist us by doing the following:

 Pre-register as far in advance as possible. You must register for the hearing at: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/2963916520165098255. This will help us determine the potential number of attendees and estimate the number of those wishing to provide oral testimony.

  • Plan your method of joining the hearing. After registering, you will receive a registration confirmation email with a link that you can use to join the hearing.  You can join the hearing by clicking that link using a computer or an iOS, Android or Windows Phone device.  The registration confirmation email will also provide the option of attending in listen-only mode by calling a phone number.    Please note that, in order to be able to ask questions or provide oral testimony, you will need to join the hearing by clicking the link using a computer or an iOS, Android or Windows Phone device.  Attendees that join by calling the phone number will be able to listen, but will not be able to ask questions or provide oral testimony.
  • Please plan to join the hearing 10-15 minutes early. NHDES’ intent is to start the hearing promptly at 6:00 p.m.  There could potentially be hundreds of hearing attendees.  To avoid disruptions for the other hearing attendees, please plan to join prior to 6:00 p.m.

Additional information on how to join a GoToWebinar® meeting is available at: How to Join a Go to Webinar Meeting

  1. When will NHDES make a decision on the variance petition?

Pursuant to Env-A 202.07 Decision, NHDES has 15 working days from the close of the comment period to issue a written decision on the petition.  Env-A 202.07 also contains the criteria under which a variance petition shall be approved or denied.  Additional information regarding review of the variance petition is available at Saint Gobain Performance Plastics Variance Petition Slide.

  1. What if I do not agree with NHDES’ decision on the variance petition?

Pursuant to Env-A 202.08 Appeals, any person aggrieved by NHDES’ decision may appeal the decision

to the NH Air Resources Council, in accordance with RSA 21-O:14 and Env-AC 200.  The appeal must be filed within 30 days of the written decision.