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Governor opposes incinerator permit delay

Gov. Tim Pawlenty weighed in on the 3M incinerator debate Saturday, telling House and Senate conference committee members in a letter he would veto the Omnibus Environment Finance Bill if it contained a provision delaying for 10 months the company's application to burn other companies' waste in its incinerator.

The provision, which would stop the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency from processing 3M's permit change application during the 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.

In a conference committee hearing Saturday, Cottage Grove Mayor Myron Bailey urged members to leave the provision in the bill until the city and 3M reach an agreement on the issue, something Bailey said could happen within the week.

Part of the agreement is that 3M would pay for an air monitoring unit at River Oaks Golf Course, Bailey said, but both sides have been waiting to meet with MPCA officials to find out what monitoring would cost.

"3M won't agree to the length of time for air monitoring until they have a dollar amount associated with it," Bailey said. "We're close, but we're waiting just for this last piece."

3M has offered to pay for air monitoring for one year, but Bailey has requested three years, he said.

City officials have also requested that 3M voluntarily lower its emissions limits, Bailey said.

3M spokesman Bill Nelson would not comment on lowering emissions limits, but he said company officials see air monitoring as a reasonable request.

The testing, "hopefully would give the residents of Cottage Grove peace of mind about air quality in Cottage Grove," Nelson said.

Nelson said the pending legislation and the discussions with the city are independent of each other, but Sen. Katie Sieben said she thinks the legislation put pressure on 3M to negotiate.

Sieben said she is encouraging other legislators to support the provision, and looking for compromise language that might be acceptable to the governor.

"I certainly am encouraging my colleagues to find a compromise and stressing the importance of this to our area," Sieben said. "It's discouraging ... that (Pawlenty) would take the side of more toxic waste in our community over the will of the citizens."

Rep. Denny McNamara, R-Hastings, opposed the provision in a debate on the House floor last Friday, saying the legislation removes 3M's incentive to negotiate.

"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."

If the sides can reach an agreement, it would still need to be ratified by the Cottage Grove City Council, and during that process, residents would get a chance to make comments, Bailey said.

Bailey, City Administrator Ryan Schroeder, and Community Development Director Howard Blin have represented the city in the negotiations.

The Coalition of Concerned Cottage Grove Citizens, which has advocated to stop 3M's proposed permit change, was not involved, said group member Fred Luden.

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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