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In 2015 the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) amended metro area landfill permits and established the regulatory structure necessary to implement this statute. In 2016, the MPCA notified licensed haulers and disposal facilities of the enforcement of Minnesota statute 473.848 as part of the implementation of the Minnesota integrated solid waste management plan. Since that time Great River Energy’s Elk River facility has been operating significantly below capacity while the metro area landfills continue to accept metro area MMSW. MPCA has sent warning letters to the landfill operators suggesting that they may be out of compliance but has not taken action to ensure compliance with the statute. MPCA has also convened a number of stakeholder meetings to assess potential solutions. Without MPCA enforcement of 473.848, Great River Energy may be forced to close its Elk River project. Reaching full capacity of incoming municipal waste is critical to producing reliable and affordable renewable electricity at the Elk River Energy Recovery Station.
If this happens, the state would regress to a time when the majority of its waste was managed at the very bottom of the solid waste management hierarchy.
Every year we can separate 12,500 tons of steel (ferrous) and aluminum (non-ferrous) metal from the municipal waste we process. This is enough steel to make a new Eiffel tower every year and enough aluminum to make over 200 million pop cans.
Great River Energy and Minnesota are at risk of losing these and other benefits of the project if the MPCA does not fully enforce the statute. Most of Great River Energy’s employees at these facilities are IBEW members (72). A continued shortage of waste would make the plant uneconomic to operate and jeopardize technical, well paying, green jobs.
Efforts to site and construct a landfill near the metro area would be extremely challenging. Conserving current permitted landfill space should be a top priority. In addition, closed landfills represent on-going costs for the state and all Minnesotans.
Great River Energy has made many process, efficiency and cost-control improvements at the ERRRP, with the goal of producing electricity at market-based prices. However, the cost of power from the Elk River project is adversely impacted by the lack of waste. As a not-for-profit cooperative, Great River Energy’s member-owners bear the increased cost of power when municipal waste is sent to landfills, instead of to Great River Energy’s operations.
The energy recovery of 300,000 tons of municipal waste at Great River Energy’s ERRPP results in a net avoidance of 150,000 tons of CO2-equivalent greenhouse gases.
Contact: Tim Steinbeck, Great River Energy, 763-241-2495, firstname.lastname@example.org
January 16, 2017