Civic beat: Garbage burner expansion

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May 2, 2011
By: Nick Halter
Nick Halter
State lawmakers: Thorough analysis needed for garbage burner expansion

Fourteen Minnesota legislators sent a letter April 14 to Hennepin County Board Chair Mike Opat telling him the county needs to do more due diligence in its quest to burn additional trash at its Downtown incinerator.

Hennepin County is trying to get the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to authorize the Hennepin Energy Recovery Center to burn 11 percent more garbage at its facility next to Target Field in the North Loop.

The plant’s operator, Covanta, began in December filling documents called an Environmental Assessment Worksheet, which could streamline the entire process.

The state legislators, however, say Covanta and the county have been reluctant to truly assess the impact of increased burning on the environment, and they’re demanding that a much more arduous “Environmental Impact Statement” be completed before any expansion takes place.   

All 14 of the legislators represent Minneapolis.

“We’re just saying at this point, let’s stop the charade and do and EIS,” said Rep. Frank Hornstein (DFL-60B).

The Hennepin Energy Recover Center currently burns 365,000 tons of garbage annually, generating 220,000 megawatt hours of electricity, or the equivalent of 24,000 homes every day. The proposal would allow for the burning over 40,000 additional tons.

The PCA in January sent a letter to Hennepin County saying that the EAW documents the county sent do not, in 27 areas, contain the information needed to continue the process.

“Some of the missing items included critical information on health and safety risks, greenhouse gas emissions, and environmentally preferable alternatives to the proposal,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter.

Opat said the HERC has always met air quality standards and has diverted Minneapolis residents’ garbage from leaky landfills 30 miles out of the city to an energy-producing facility in town.

“I look at their request as just a pursuit of needless bureaucracy,” he said.

The legislators say they’re not convinced Hennepin County has sufficiently explored recycling and composting as a means of reducing waste burning.


Metro Transit rides increase in first quarter

Metro Transit ridership reached 19.5 million in the first quarter of 2011, up 2 percent from the first quarter of 2010.

Average gas prices during the first quarter in Minnesota rose from about $3.15 a gallon on Jan. 1 to about $3.75 on March 31, according to AAA. A year ago a gallon of gas cost $2.80.

Northstar Commuter Rail ridership jumped 6 percent from the first quarter of 2010, according to Metro Transit’s quarterly report. Express bus ridership was up 3.5 percent; urban local service increased by 2.3 percent and suburban local bus service went up 1.5 percent.

Ridership on the Hiwatha light rail line decreased by 1.8 percent.

In total, ridership hit 19.5 million for trains and buses last quarter. Customers boarded Metro Transit 78 million times in 2010.


Feds commit to pay half for Central Corridor

The federal government on April 26 signed an agreement to cover half the cost of the $957 million Central Corridor Light Rail Transit line.

Construction began on the line in 2010 and service is expected to begin in 2014. The line will link the downtowns of St. Paul and Minneapolis via Washington Avenue, University Avenue, the state Capitol and the University of Minnesota.

According to the Met Council, the project will create 3,400 engineering, construction, management and operations jobs before the trains begin running.

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