Maine Department of Environmental Protection has issued final license approvals for the Fiberight recycling and solid waste processing facility in Hampden, according to a news release from Municipal Review Committee.

After a year of review and public comment, DEP issued final Solid Waste, Air Emissions, and Stormwater Management and Natural Resources Protection Act permits in accordance with all applicable laws and regulations including the state's Solid Waste Hierarchy, MRC representatives wrote in the release.

Critics including members of the Joint Standing Committee on Environment and Natural Resources have said the MRC/Fiberight plan is inconsistent with the Solid Waste Hierarchy, which encourages waste reduction, reuse, recycling, composting and processing before land disposal.

Specifically, the plan includes a clause that would allow municipalities to send trash to a landfill in Norridgewock for up to two years if construction of the Fiberight facility is delayed, and for any period when the plant must shut down temporarily.

DEP spokesman David Madore said the Solid Waste Hierarchy was considered in the decision to issue permits to MRC/Fiberight because contracts would allow communities to keep their recycling programs. This, along with additional materials removed at the Fiberight facility, would address "reduction," he said.

"Based on comments received, the department has added additional clarifying language in the relevant sections of the solid waste license relating to the solid waste management hierarchy," Madore said, including a requirement that MRC/Fiberight notify DEP when trash is diverted to a landfill, and submit a schedule "outlining proposed measures that will be implemented in order to reach commercial operations."

MRC called the issuance of the permits from DEP "a significant achievement in the development of the Fiberight facility in Hampden."

MRC had agreements with 105 towns as of June 28, which translates to about 100,000 tons of trash going to Fiberight's facility. While the organization originally indicated a need for at least 150,000 tons of trash, that minimum number has been reduced to 110,000 tons, according to previously published reports.

Locally, a smaller number of towns have signed contracts to continue taking their solid waste to the Penobscot Energy Recovery Co. waste-to-energy facility in Orrington.

Camden, Rockport, Hope and Lincolnville, members of Mid-Coast Solid Waste, have been given until Aug. 31 to decide whether to re-join MRC, which means contracting with Fiberight for the towns' trash processing.

Waldo County towns faced with the proposal have split between Fiberight and PERC. Belfast, Brooks, Freedom, Searsmont, Thorndike, Troy and Unity have gone with Fiberight.

Prospect, Searsport, Frankfort and Stockton Springs have signed with PERC. Northport residents originally chose Fiberight as that town's option but later rescinded the decision and left the choice in the hands of selectmen.

With the final permits in hand, MRC and Fiberight are moving forward with the next phases of this project including financial close, site acquisition and construction, the news release states.