Timeline of 3M Cottage Grove incinerator permit processHere are key dates and events from a three-year debate of 3M’s proposal to import waste it doesn’t produce to help fuel its corporate incinerator in Cottage Grove.
Here are key dates and events from a three-year debate of 3M’s proposal to import waste it doesn’t produce to help fuel its corporate incinerator in Cottage Grove:
April 2009: 3M publicly unveils its plan to supplement its shrinking stream of hazardous solvent wastes from across North America with waste from another company. 3M officials say they want to cut amount of natural gas used to keep its corporate incinerator in Cottage Grove burning efficiently and save around $750,000 per year, later raising that figure to $1 million or more.
City leaders and many residents raise concerns, saying they don’t want an increase in hazardous emissions in the city. MPCA officials postpone the public comment period to talk with local state lawmakers, city leaders and 3M officials. “I think we had anticipated some controversy,” an MPCA official said then, “but maybe not the level we found there.”
May 2009: Cottage Grove officials continue to urge 3M to reconsider the proposal while struggling to find a way to halt it — regulatory power lies with the pollution control agency, not the city. Following a closed-door meeting, 3M volunteers to put its requested permit amendments on hold to allow the city to form an environmental task force to examine the issue. The city appoints seven residents to the task force in July.
Oct. 2009 - Feb. 2010: The task force releases five provisions they recommend be included in the rewritten incinerator permits. (All are included in the permits OK’d by the MPCA last week.) Mayor Myron Bailey, however, wants to ban commercial incineration — that is, prevent 3M from accepting payment for outside waste. The council passes a ban in February but MPCA officials say it has no bearing on the updated permits, which don’t classify commercial or non-commercial incineration.
March 2010: Residents rail against the incinerator plan at a public hearing and local elected officials testify before a state House environmental committee, urging them to stop the 3M proposal. “I understand (3M executives) have to answer to their shareholders,” Mayor Myron Bailey testifies, but “I have to answer to my residents.” 3M Cottage Grove Site Director Vickie Batroot warns lawmakers further delays could mean job losses.
May 2010: Local legislators Sen. Katie Sieben and former Rep. Karla Bigham intervene, trying to have legislation passed that would put a moratorium on incinerating outside waste at the 3M incinerator. Gov. Tim Pawlenty threatens to veto an environmental bill if the language is included and a House committee kills the measure.
Aug. 2010: After protracted negotiations, city and 3M reach a deal: Cottage Grove will no longer formally oppose incinerator permit changes in exchange for cost-share on a three-year air monitoring program. “It’s the best we can do,” says City Council member Justin Olsen. The Coalition of Concerned Cottage Grove Citizens isn’t happy with the deal: “We intend to contest this at every step of the way,” a spokesperson says of the 3M plan.
Summer 2011: 3M incinerator permit amendments on hold as Environmental Protection Agency responds to comments and requests from Coalition.
March-June 2012: MPCA opens 30-day public notice period, the furthest the amended permits have progressed since first proposed 35 months earlier. City officials say the new permits largely meet concerns they had laid out but an April public hearing on the changes gets heated, with fiery exchanges between upset residents and MPCA officials. In May, the MPCA Citizens’ Board declines to require a deeper environmental review of the plan and last week approved the proposed changes and ordered updated permits be issued.