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Legislation that would slow 3M incinerator permit change passes House floor

Legislation that would delay 3M's plans to burn waste from outside companies in its Cottage Grove incinerator passed in the Minnesota House in the early morning hours Friday.

The provision -- which would place a 10-month moratorium on 3M's application with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to change its permit -- was incorporated into the omnibus environment finance bill.

An amendment proposed by Rep. Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake, that would have removed the provision from the bill failed. Rep. Karla Bigham, DFL-Cottage Grove, voted against removing the provision, and Rep. Denny McNamara, R-Hastings, voted in favor of removing the provision.

McNamara said he is concerned that if the moratorium becomes law, 3M will not agree to place an air-monitoring device near the plant and voluntarily lower its pollution limits because it will have no incentive to do so.

"There's no way that 3M is going to come forward and lower standards and do air monitoring if they can't get a permit," McNamara said. "What we'd really like is this air monitoring, if we could find out how much lead and how much cadmium and (volatile organic compounds) are in the air."

On Monday, McNamara voted in the Minnesota House Ways and Means Committee against sending the provision to the House floor because there was no hearing on it in the House, and he thought it would negatively impact local negotiations on the issue, he said.

Cottage Grove Mayor Myron Bailey said he thinks the legislation motivated the city and 3M to come back to the negotiating table. Bailey said he's hoping to reach an agreement with 3M by Sunday, and if that happens the provision could be pulled from the bill in conference committee.

He expects 3M to pay for an air monitoring station at River Oaks Golf Course, to voluntarily decrease its pollution limits and to cut back on burning external waste as internal waste increases, as part of the agreement, Bailey said.

Representatives for 3M and the city of Cottage Grove could not be immediately reached for comment.

Scott Wente

Scott Wente has been editor at the South Washington County Bulletin since 2011. He worked as a reporter at other Forum Communications newspapers from 2003 to 2011.

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