What's the rush, Elvestuen?

A highly questionable report, a meeting notice with a one-day response deadline - and voila, we get a new waste landfill.

What's the rush, Elvestuen?


By: Ivar Aasgaard Røsand and Morten Walløe Tvedt


The expert committee for the reduction and treatment of hazardous waste delivered its final report on Monday 4 November. The report is long, but covers many complicated topics superficially. Two possible national landfills for hazardous waste are set up against each other: Raudsand in Møre and Romsdal against Brevik in Porsgrunn. As a surprise, two new alternatives are launched without investigation: Mulen i Odda and Gudvangen Stein.

The committee does not carry out independent analyses. Instead, they base their recommendations on statements from actors who themselves have financial interests in the matter, the joint-stock companies including NOAH, Bergmesteren Raudsand and Veidekke. The report lays out a number of guidelines that indicate overrunning of local democracy.

Climate and Environment Minister Ola Elvestuen has assembled the committee and ordered the report. On Tuesday 12 November, the ministry published information online about a meeting today, 15 November. The meeting will be held to get input on choosing where a national landfill will be located. But how interested is minister Elvestuen in input? Those who have a legal interest in the case are not particularly invited - and only one day's reply deadline has been given to register as a participant. The notice also states that not all participants will be given time to speak.


It is clear that it is urgent for the government to take this decision now. What kind of basis does the report provide?

The landfill plans at Brevik and Raudsand are superficially treated. The committee has not even visited Raudsand, despite the fact that they conclude with the fact that it is suitable. Consideration of biological diversity has not been assessed at Raudsand, even though there are red-listed species in the area. The committee does not point to the fact that the fjord outside Raudsand is already heavily polluted and that metals are constantly being released from the huge quantities of hazardous waste that have previously been dumped, partly without permission, in the old mine shafts which are now under water. They do not address the consequences of building a deep-water quay down to a depth of up to 170 meters in highly polluting sediments. The committee's only point related to "stirring up and spreading of contaminated sediments" is that it will require permission from the Norwegian Environment Agency.


It is surprising and far from sustainable that something that calls itself an expert committee is running over the environmental situation with hare's paws in this way.

The report describes the problems with emissions from diesel vehicles that drive inside the mines, while the additional climate emissions from transport on ships for shipping waste to Raudsand are not mentioned. The transport is a weighty argument against placing the landfill at Raudsand. In the risk analysis Norconsult has prepared on behalf of Bergmesteren Raudsand, it is assumed that ships with waste entail a risk of enormous environmental consequences in the event of an accident - but that the probability of an accident is "minimal". Several incidents just in the last year show that this is an untenable assumption, such as when the cruise ship "Viking Sky" was in distress at sea on 23 March this year.

In the conclusion for Dalen mines in Brevik, the disagreement about the suitability of the mines is pointed out. The main counter-argument referred to is the lack of a regulatory plan and the overriding of local democracy. For Raudsand's part, the overriding of local democracy is downplayed: the committee does not mention that this localization will involve an equal degree of overriding, as the county council and all surrounding municipalities are against the landfill being added to Raudsand.

The regulatory plan for Raudsand as it currently stands cannot be confirmed, since it regulates measures that have an effect in another municipality - Gjemnes - which has not dealt with the plan, but rather has objections to it. The new Molde municipality, where Nesset will be part of from 1 January, will be responsible for managing this in the future. They have not been given an opportunity to comment on the regulatory plan. Here we see why it is urgent for the government now - there is probably a majority against Raudsand in the new Molde municipality.

The committee refers to a series of permits that must be granted in order for Raudsand to be selected, as if the Norwegian Environment Agency has already dealt with these matters. They don't have that, and it is far from certain that the professional conclusions from the environmental authorities will make Raudsand a possible alternative.

After mining stopped at Raudsand in 1987, the area that lies down towards the national salmon fjord Tingvollfjorden has been the site of landfills and attempts to recycle hazardous waste, which have also resulted in environmental crime. If the state places the national landfill at Raudsand, it disclaims responsibility for cleaning it up. Veidekke and Bergmesteren, as owners of the measures, intend to cover enormous amounts of hazardous waste without treating it. This means that the State, as the current owner, does not have to clean up old sins. The "expert" committee does not mention the existing pollution.

Then again: what is urgent, and for whom? In the debate, the campaigners at Raudsand try to make everyone believe that we are working under enormous time pressure because the landfill on Langøya will be full in 2024. Norway's waste only makes up a part of what is deposited on Langøya each year. This means that if NOAH is ordered to stop the import of waste, the capacity there can be increased by perhaps five years. This means that we can put a better solution in place without compromising on administrative law rules or democratic principles.

NOAH was a publicly owned enterprise until it was privatized: We have seen at Raudsand in the past how wrong things can go when private parties deal with waste without long-term commitments. The state should have responsibility: take revenue and set it aside for future costs at a landfill. Letting a private company with a post office box address in Norway and registration in Luxemburg take responsibility does not imply a sound solution for the future handling of hazardous waste.

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