State requires new environmental review for Hennepin trash burner


The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) is requiring a new environmental review of Hennepin County’s plans to burn 1,000 more tons of garbage per day at its downtown Minneapolis incinerator.

Hennepin County has been seeking a permit for the increase by relying on an Environmental Impact Study (EIS) that was completed for the Minnesota Twins’ new Target Field across the street.

That raised concerns about health impacts beyond the ballpark last summer at the Minneapolis City Planning Commission and City Council, leading the incinerator’s private operator, Covanta, to withdraw its application for city approvals.

In September three citizens filed petitions for a new Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW) to specifically study increased burning at the Hennepin Energy Recovery Center (HERC).

“It looked like there were going to be ways for Covanta to circumvent the public process,” petitioner Justin Eibenholtzl told the Minnesota Independent.

Those petitions were pending in November when Covanta tried to get state approval via an MPCA administrative process that is reserved for changes so minor they require no public hearing. The MPCA turned back that effort.

Last month Covanta submitted a new application to the MPCA, triggering the agency’s examination of whether state law requires a mandatory EAW. It does, the MPCA decided.

The EAW will take an initial look at the effects of burning 365,000 tons more municipal solid waste per year. Depending on what’s found, an EAW can lead to a more extensive EIS.

“The MPCA will be getting the EAW process under way shortly,” the MPCA wrote in a letter to the citizen-petitioners (pdfs: page one, page two).