Need for timely enforcement of MN Statutes 473.848

MN Statutes, section 473.848, says that all metro resource recovery facilities, including Great River Energy’s Elk River Resource Recovery Project (ERRRP), must be operating at capacity before mixed municipal solid waste (MMSW) can legally be sent to landfills.

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 Great River Energy’s ERRRP is forced to close, 320,000 tons of MMSW and more than 25 million pounds of recyclable metal will be sent to a landfill every year.

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.

Great River Energy’s resource recovery project is also a recycling project.

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’s ERRRP contributes $25 million annually to the local economy, 30 megawatts of renewable energy and 88 full time jobs.

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.

Enforcing MN Statutes, section 473.848, will prolong the life of metro area landfills, ensuring safe and effective waste management practices for years to come. Enforcement will also delay the need to site, permit and construct a new metro area landfill.

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’s ERRRP is one of the four metro area resource recovery facilities that would benefit from the enforcement of the statute.

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 conversion of municipal waste at a waste-to-energy facility is 10 times more efficient than landfill disposal with gas recovery generation.

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,

January 16, 2017

Download a PDF of Great River Energy’s MN Statutes 473.848 Position Statement