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State board won't require more review of 3M incinerator plan

A Minnesota Pollution Control Agency board on Tuesday rejected a petition for a deeper environmental review of 3M's plan to import hazardous waste from outside the company to its Cottage Grove incinerator.

The proposed permit amendments don't meet the state's threshold for a more detailed study of their environmental impacts, known as an environmental assessment worksheet, the MPCA's Citizens' Board decided in a 6-1 vote following hours of testimony at an afternoon hearing in St. Paul.

Worksheets are typically completed to evaluate new construction projects, or proposals that significantly alter existing operations at an MPCA-permitted site, pollution control officials told Board members. 3M's plan to burn hazardous solvent waste from outside the company to supplement its own shrinking waste stream does not meet those criteria, officials, including Ann Cohen, assistant state attorney general, testified.

"There is nothing we can identify as a change that would allow staff to take the position that an (environmental assessment worksheet) is appropriate," Cohen told the Board.

Tuesday's vote sets up a decision next month by the Citizens' Board on the 3M plan that has drawn fierce criticism from Cottage Grove residents and elected officials since it was made public in early 2009.

The Coalition of Concerned Cottage Grove Citizens requested the review, collecting more than 400 signatures they presented to the pollution control agency before a public hearing on the permits last month.

Coalition members on Tuesday pleaded with the Board to require more environmental review, a move Vickie Batroot, site director at 3M Cottage Grove Center, said would represent an "unnecessary and burdensome delay" to the MPCA and 3M.

"There is nothing in this permit good for the citizens of Cottage Grove or the surrounding river valley," said Fred Luden, a former site director at 3M Cottage Grove and a former Cottage Grove City Council member who has helped lead the Coalition's efforts to stop the 3M proposal.

3M already burns hazardous waste from across its North American operations at the four-decade-old Cottage Grove incinerator. The company wants to import waste to supplement its own dwindling supply and to cut its use of natural gas that is needed to keep the incinerator running efficiently.

3M has said the proposal would benefit the environment and save the company up to $2 million per year.