Biomass brouhaha in Minneapolis

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Minneapolis residents concerned about emissions from a proposed wood-burning power plant in the city’s East Phillips neighborhood scored a victory March 25 when a House division threw a new roadblock in front of the project.

HF3293, sponsored by Rep. Karen Clark (DFL-Mpls), would require the Pollution Control Agency to conduct a first-of-its-kind study on the potential environmental impact of the proposed Midtown Eco Energy biomass facility. The PCA would have to take into account the cumulative impact of all types and sources of pollution in the area before it could consider issuing a permit for the project. The House Environment and Natural Resources Finance Division approved the bill and referred it to the House Finance Committee.

Clark said the East Phillips neighborhood is already one of the most polluted areas in Minnesota, with high levels of lead and arsenic poisoning. She said the residents — mostly low-income minorities — suffer from a disproportionate amount of asthma and other environmental health problems.

Carol Pass, president of the East Phillips Improvement Coalition, testified that the facility would pump nearly a million additional pounds of various pollutants into the air over the neighborhood every year.

“I’m not saying ‘not in my backyard.’ I’m saying this backyard is packed full of pollutants,” Pass said.

Kim Havey, finance and operations principal for Kandiyohi Development Partners, the firm proposing the facility, spoke in opposition to the bill. He said the Midtown Eco Energy project represented an investment in renewable energy that would reduce the state’s overall carbon footprint, provide new jobs to the community and produce emissions that would be equal to or lower than any other biomass facility in the United States.

“It makes little sense to single out our project, after two years of permitting, to have additional regulatory requirements, and for Midtown Eco Energy to be scrutinized by an entirely different set of criteria,” Havey said.

A companion, SF3393, sponsored by Sen. Linda Berglin (DFL-Mpls), was laid over March 10 by the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Finance Committee for possible inclusion in its omnibus bill.

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