Using reasoning that defies logic, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) seems hell-bent on resurrecting a decades-old, and long-dormant, state statute on solid waste disposal that now makes little or no sense — unless you are a politician.
The state Legislature needs to repeal this archaic statute soon before the MPCA does any more harm. But it seems that blatant politics is getting in the way of today’s reality.
The dilemma involves an old 1980s statute that requires all seven-county metro waste be hauled to metro waste sites for disposal. The statute has not been enforced, however, until the recent push to have the metro waste hauled to an Elk River incinerator for disposal.
While the state law seems simple enough, times and technologies have changed considerably since that statute was enacted nearly 30 years ago.
Back then, solid waste was simply landfilled, often by digging holes in the ground and covering them. Many were not even covered. The state law was enacted to address growing concerns about the environment, and was justified at the time.
Now the federal EPA, through the state MPCA, has been pushing hard to utilize green energy or renewable resources to help America end its dependence on foreign oil.
With current technology, using landfill liners, sophisticated monitoring devices and capturing the methane produced by the composting solid waste, landfills like Spruce Ridge have turned the byproduct into renewable energy.
Waste Management, owners of Spruce Ridge, and the city of Glencoe worked out a long-term contract to turn that landfill gas into electricity for Glencoe utility customers. They invested millions into a new generating plant, equipment and transmission lines, all with the enthusiastic support of the MPCA.
And it has worked great for all involved ... until now.
If the MPCA is allowed to enforce the archaic state statute, the viability of the Spruce Ridge methane gas-to-electricity program will be in jeopardy.
The landfill needs the solid waste raw material to continue to generate the methane gas to create the electricity to make the project work.
But diverting a large portion of the waste, especially from the west metro area, to the Elk River incinerator will cause problems. In short, Spruce Ridge needs that solid waste stream to continue.
On top of that, the county’s well-run recycling program also is in jeopardy. Its revenues come from the tip fees at the Spruce Ridge landfill. If volumes decrease dramatically, tip fees and recycling revenue will tumble accordingly.
County Solid Waste Director Ed Homan estimated enforcing the old state statute will cost the county about $547,000 in lost tip fees. If that happens, in order to keep the county recycling program going, either it will have to be scaled back, or more of the cost passed onto customers. Neither is desired.
There is a lot at stake locally, but do our local legislators have enough clout to change minds at St. Paul? It will need a majority of support at the state Capitol to keep the MPCA from going forward with its enforcement plans to the detriment of citizens in McLeod County, in general, and Glencoe in particular.
Tell your elected officials to get this statute repealed during the upcoming legislative session. It is important.