Commentary - Senator Ingebrigtsen supports waste-to-energy over landfillingTo most Minnesotans, remembering to put the trash can out on the curb each week is the extent of the time they spend thinking about the issue. But behind the scenes, a conversation is beginning to take form that will cause all Minnesotans to pay special notice to their trash and put extra thought into where it ultimately ends up.
By Dan Olson,
To most Minnesotans, remembering to put the trash can out on the curb each week is the extent of the time they spend thinking about the issue.
But behind the scenes, a conversation is beginning to take form that will cause all Minnesotans to pay special notice to their trash and put extra thought into where it ultimately ends up.
For the past 30 years, Minnesota has been good at diverting a small percentage of its waste to waste-to-energy facilities. These operations filter out recyclables before that waste is turned into power.
But in recent years, the owners of the state’s private landfills have been making a concerted effort to divert waste from these waste-to-energy facilities directly into their landfills. And who can blame them? The extra 140,000 tons they brought in last year also brought them an estimated extra $7 million in profits. But the diversion stands in direct opposition to the state’s solid waste management plan that suggests we should be doing, less landfilling, not more. And by diverting the tonnage from the waste-to-energy plants, the viability of these facilities is being jeopardized by lack of incoming volume.
If the waste-to-energy plants were to shut down, and Minnesota reverted to straight landfill dumping, a lot of people would lose out. Taxpayers would be at the top of that list. Current law stipulates that once a landfill has been closed for 30 years, the responsibility for contamination from leakage shifts from the landfill owner to the municipalities that utilized the facility. Taxpayers in Minnesota have already been forced to pay nearly $360 million to clean up landfills that closed in the 1960s and 1970s.
And then there is the energy produced by the waste-to-energy facilities. In the city of Alexandria, the Douglas County Hospital and the 3M Abrasives Factory will utilize process steam and district heating created by the local waste-to-energy plant to power their energy needs. The plant is close to signing a deal with Alexandria Technical and Community College to do the same. Just up the road in Perham, two of the city’s largest employers, Tuffy’s Pet Foods and Bongards Creamery, also benefit from process steam derived from turning waste into energy.
Thankfully for all Minnesotans, the facilities in Perham and Alexandria each happen to fall within the new legislative district of Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, who chairs the Senate Environmental and Natural Resources Committee and who has consistently supported waste to energy over landfilling. That committee will be charged with looking into the request from an army of lobbyists for waste haulers with landfills to overturn 30 years of Minnesota’s solid waste management goals to recycle and process waste before landfilling.
A decision to support these haulers will jeopardize the jobs and low cost renewable energy that currently benefit the residents of the senator’s district.
The correct course of action seems clear to us, and we thank Sen. Ingebrigtsen for his principled leadership that shows real dedication to the residents of this entire region.