Incinerator provision pulled from environmental billFacing threat of veto, conference committee yanks 3M incinerator permit moratorium from environmental bill
Facing the threat of a veto by Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Minnesota House and Senate conference committee on Wednesday pulled a provision from a sweeping environmental finance bill that would have delayed 3M's application to burn other companies’ waste in its Cottage Grove incinerator.
In a letter to the committee last week, the Republican governor threatened to veto the entire Omnibus Environment Finance Bill if lawmakers didn't remove the 3M-related language.
The provision that would have prevented the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency from issuing a new permit for the facility during a 10-month moratorium “sends an unwanted message to job creators and the regulated community that could discourage them from building or expanding in Minnesota,” Pawlenty said in the letter.
Local officials had pushed for Legislative action in the city's fight against 3M's plan to burn outside waste. City leaders are now engaged in talks with 3M to strike a deal on the issue that would include the company footing the bill for air monitoring near the 3M-Cottage Grove plant.
Rep. Karla Bigham, DFL-Cottage Grove, fought to keep the moratorium included in the bill. Similar legislation proposed last month by Sen. Katie Sieben, DFL-Cottage Grove, failed to make it to the Senate floor.
Bigham said she was surprised the governor opposed the moratorium on 3M’s proposed permit change.
“It really wasn’t that strong of language," Bigham said. "This was strictly asking (to wait) until March of 2011. To me this wasn’t much to ask for local control. I’m just disappointed. I feel like the governor is not putting the best interests of our residents first and siding with corporate America.”
Bigham said she hopes the decision does not threaten Cottage Grove’s talks with 3M.
“I hope that 3M stays on their word and comes to an agreement with the city on air monitoring and lowering the amount of heavy metal emissions. They lobbied very, very hard against this provision and they have a very powerful lobbying effort, and they obviously have the ear of the governor.”
Cottage Grove Mayor Myron Bailey said he doesn't feel the committee's decision will jeopardize the negotiations. But he echoed Bigham's belief that Pawlenty's actions weren't for the good of Cottage Grove's residents.
"Really, it was the governor getting involved in a local issue, deciding the citizens’ health isn’t as important as lobbyists," Bailey said.