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“County Gives Up on Burner Increase – MPCA Renews Commitment to Incineration”

Southside Pride, February 17, 2014.

    HERC Documents 

MPCA Has Discontinued Work on the HERC Environmental Review, Hennepin County Board PDF, February 25, 2014.

Withdrawal of Application for Major Modification to Air Emission Permit #05300400-003; AQ File No. 2125, Hennepin County Board PDF,  2/18/14.

Resolution to Withdraw Request to Increase HERC Capacity, Hennepin County Board, proposed January 14, 2014; passed February 11, 2014.

[These Hennepin County Board links go dead--arbitrarily; for help in locating, see:]

HENNEPIN COUNTY BOARD MEETING Agendas (with accompanying documentation) can be found here.

Amendment 5 to Agmt A03625 with Covanta Hennepin Energy Resource Co, Hennepin County Board Action Request 13-0443, December 2, 2013.

Minnesota Nurses Association Resolution on Putting Public Health First in Minnesota Waste Management Policies, November 2010.

Permit Application of 11/03/09.

Press Release of 11/24/09 by State Representatives Frank Hornstein, Jean Wagenius & Jim Davnie.

Notice of Intervention of November 2009.

HERC Incinerator–Petition for Environmental Assessment Worksheet, August 5, 2009.

Legalectric, Inc. Memorandum of June 22, 2009.

Erik Nilsson Memorandum of June 18, 2009.

Senator Torres Ray letter opposing HERC expansion, June 8, 2009.

Rep. Karen Clark letter opposing HERC expansion, June 8, 2009.

Garbage Incineration & the Hennepin County Incineration, Hamline Journal of Public Law & Policy by James Michael Orange [Mpls City Planner for 11 years] , Vol. 9, #1, Spring 1988.

Local Media Coverage

Hennepin County Ends Garbage Fight with Minneapolis“, Star Tribune, February 11, 2014.

“Hennepin County Drops Request to Increase Burning at HERC”, The Journal, January 31, 2014.

“The $407 Million Question for Hennepin County: Rebuilding aging HERC. . . for what?”, Southside Pride, January 5, 2014.

“Burn, Baby, Burn”, Southside Pride, by Lara Norkus-Crampton, RN, December 2013.

“How We Got Burned”, Southside Pride, by Lara Norkus-Crampton, RN, October 2013.

“North Minneapolis Is Burning”, InsightNews.com, October 7, 2013.

“Incineration vs Recycling: A Public Health Issue”, Twin Cities Daily Planet, by Lara Norkus-Crampton, RN, September 03, 2013.

“Burning Garbage: Bad for Children”, Southside Pride, by Lara Norkus-Crampton, RN, August 2013.

Time to Junk Trash-to-Energy Programs Like One in Newport?, Pioneer Press, June 22, 2013.

“Hennepin Co. Commissioner Voted for Contracts Tied to Wife’s Law Firm”, Star Tribune, by Maya Rao, June 17, 2013.

“HERC Incinerator & the Minneapolis Environment: What Can One Person Do?” Twin Cities Daily Planet, by Sheila Regan, April 15, 2013.

“Waste Disposal Poses Pollution Threat to Northsiders”, Twin Cities Daily Planet, by Lissa Jones, April 13, 2012.

“Hennepin County: Standoff Over Trash Burner’s Capacity is Rubbish”, Star Tribune, by Rochelle Olson, March 15, 2013.

“Garbage Burning Decision Still Smoldering in Minneapolis” Twin Cities Daily Planet, by Susan Hubbard, March 4, 2013.
“More Garbage Burning Ahead for Minneapolis?”, Twin Cities Daily Planet, by Lawrence Schumacher, August 3, 2011.

“Minneapolis Legislators Seek Limit on Hennepin County Trash Burner Downtown”, Star Tribune, by Kevin Duchschere, April 15, 2011.

“State Requires New Environmental Review for Hennepin Trash Burner”, Twin Cities Daily Planet, by Chris Steller, 1/17/2010.

“Hennepin County Again Seeks to Expand Burning Downtown”, Star Tribune, by Kevin Duchschere, January 8, 2010.

“MPCA Turns Back Bid to Burn More Trash Without Public Hearing”, Twin Cities Daily Planet, by Chris Steller, 11/28/2009.

PCA Denies a Request to Burn More Trash at Hennepin County’s Incinerator Next to Target Field“, Star Tribune, by Steve Brandt, November 24, 2009.

Decision on downtown garbage burner increase delayed”, Twin Cities Daily Planet, by Jeremy Stratton, July 24, 2009.

Frank Hornstein, Jean Wagenius:  Star Tribune wrong to endorse plan to increase incinerator use:  Minneapolis city Council should reject Hennepin County’s proposal”, Star-Tribune Opinion, July 22, 2009.

HERC–Burn, baby, burn? , Twin Cities Daily Planet, by Jeremy Stratton, July 21, 2009.

“Bid to Burn More Trash Near Ballpark Turned Down”, Star Tribune, by Steve Brandt, June 22, 2009.

“Mpls Residents Discuss Garbage Plan”, myFox9.com, 6/8/09.

“Minneapolis Pushes to Burn More Trash”, Star Tribune, by Steve Brandt, June 5, 2009.

“Garbage Fix – Big Burn”, Minnesota Public Interest Research Group, Summer 1987.


Minneapolis City Council Continues the Appeal!

We received this word from the Chair, Gary Schiff, of the Zoning & Planning Committee of the Minneapolis City Council after the Committee met at 9:30 am on Thursday, February 28:

“I forwarded it to the clerk for inclusion in the public record. Today the committee took public testimony today [sic] and ultimately voted to continue the appeal until the EAW is complete and the determination of whether an EIS is required is made.”
And, FYI — public testimony was not allowed until AFTER THE VOTE WAS TAKEN!  A more complete analysis will follow.

Find below a 30 minute program of State Representative Frank Hornstein being interviewed by Lara Norkus-Crampton, RN regarding the capacity increase proposed for the Downtown Garbage Burner (the HERC) by Covanta and Hennepin County.

             Click on:  HERC YouTube

Representative Hornstein has been a staunch opponent of garbage incineration for many years and has played an important role in fighting the proposed increase in burning capacity for the HERC from 1000 tons to 1200 tons of mixed garbage per day.

Lara Norkus-Crampton served on the Planning Commission when the permit for the proposed expansion was denied in 2009.  Covanta appealed this decision to the City Council but has not provided the needed data to challenge the decision of the Planning Commission.  The Appeal is currently being reviewed by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to determine if a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) should be required.

In 2002, the MPCA stated the HERC was the largest source of dioxins in the state.  To date there have been no comprehensive, independent, third party environmental studies since the original EIS done in 1986–conducted before the burner was even in operation.

A full assessment of the environmental and public health impacts of 20+ years of burning 1000 tons of garbage per day at this facility should be required by the MPCA before an additional 200 tons per day is considered.  The Minneapolis City Council is charged with making the final determination on this Appeal.

Many Questions Remain Unanswered 
Why are we burning recyclables?  Why are we burning garbage from outside of Minneapolis?  What is coming out of those stacks anyway?  Why have we been living with a garbage burner belching emissions in the middle of Downtown Minneapolis for the past 25 years?  What is the effect on the public health of our citizens–especially our children?  Is there a better way to manage our solid waste?  These are some of the questions explored in the interview.
KFAI Radio FM 90.3/106.7 hosted a program on 2/27/12 entitled “Hennepin County Burner: Renewable Energy or Deadly Polluter?” with hosts Andy Driscoll & Michelle Alimoradi.  The show can be heard HERE.

Why we should NOT expand Burning our Garbage at HERC…

•    Burning produces more greenhouse gas emissions than coal and 3x those of natural gas.
•    Burning releases all kinds of air toxics and metals such as lead, mercury, arsenic, beryllium, copper, cadmium.
•    HERC is the largest source of dioxin in the State, as identified by the MPCA in 2002, representing more than 51% of all the Dioxin released.  The form released was the most toxic form, the same used as the active ingredient in “agent orange”
•    We pay for it not only with our tax dollars, but also with our health.
•    There are currently several “hot spots” of pollution from the incinerator due to a modeling study done for the Ballpark EIS, yet no one has alerted those neighborhoods, like St. Anthony West, that they are in a ‘hot zone’ of pollution.
•    Between 50% and 66% of what is currently going to the burner is recyclable material or compost that could easily be collected today.
•    Recycling rates are flat since the 80’s, Hennepin County is at about 42% according to their report April 8, 2010.
•    Recycling materials avoids releasing greenhouse gasses (73%), whereas burning those materials creates them.
•    Burning garbage still results in toxic ash that has to be landfilled, about 20% of the material going in will come back as ash, and the rest becomes air pollution.  That ash is much worse to handle and deal with than the recycling and compost.
•    In the 2010 MPCA report to the legislature it was identified that air toxics are of primary concern and among the ones of most concern are dioxins and furans.  Garbage burning was identified as one of the ‘most important’ sources of these emissions that must be curtailed.
•    Burning unsorted trash is among the least desirable forms of disposal as ranked in the State Hierarchy; reducing waste, recycling & composting all rank above.
•    Goals have been set by the County to greatly boost recycling rates by 2015—to 75%, but all the money and resources are going towards the burner.
•    HERC is currently located in the most densely populated area of the State and immediately adjacent to an open air ballpark.

                                  Click here; this tells it all! 

MPLS. PLANNING COMMISSION’S “NO” TO CUP (Conditional Use Permit) on 6/22/09 to Burn 212 More Tons Garbage Per Day 

   “Action: Notwithstanding staff recommendation, the City Planning Commission denied the amended conditional use permit for a waste disposal facility at the property of 419 N 5th St (aka 505 6th Ave N), based on the following findings:
1. Increasing the capacity of the garbage burner, in all probability, could be detrimental to public health, safety, comfort or general welfare.
2. Increasing the capacity of the garbage burner, in all probability, could be injurious to the use and enjoyment of other property in the vicinity and, in all probability, could impede the normal or orderly development and improvement of surrounding property for uses permitted in the district.
3. This use is not consistent with some policies of the Comprehensive Plan, including the following: 7.1, 7.8, 7.11, and 7.12.”

Click here for further explanation & quotations from School Board Member, Carla Bates, and Chair of Zoning & Planning Commission, Gary Schiff.

 Click here to read the full transcript–including testimony from State Representatives Karen Clark and Frank Hornstein.


On July 23, 2009, the Minneapolis Council Committee on Zoning & Planning met to decide whether to approve the HERC expansion requests of Covanta Energy to burn 21% more garbage.  When the agenda item came up, Kim Holien, Minnneapolis City Planner, told the Committee that Covanta had requested a postponement of the hearing.  Covanta stated that they would voluntarily undergo a review by the EQB (Enviromental Quality Board) which could determine whether either an EAW (Enviromental Assessment Worksheet) or EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) should be performed by the MPCA (Mn Pollution Control Agency).

Chairman Gary Schiff granted the delay for at least two weeks, if not longer. Council Member Remington warned Covanta that even if an EAW or EIS is not required by the EQB, Covanta had better seriously consider undergoing such a review if they expected to get this Committee’s approval to expand burning at the HERC.

Neighbors Against the Burner and other community voices were prepared to testify but will be watching carefully for the next meeting of the Zoning & Planning Committee so that they can share their strong opposition to HERC expansion with the Minneapolis Zoning & Planning Committee.


On August 5, 2009, MNCA (Minneapolis Neighbors for Clean Air) filed a petition for an Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW) for the HERC garbage incinerator with the Minnesota Enviromental Quality Board.  For text of the cover letter, click here.

Powerful NAB Powerpoint — Just the Facts, Ma’am!

NAB was prepared to present their powerful, new powerpoint about HERC pollution at the July 23rd hearing.  Since Covanta requested the meeting be postponed, City Council Members on the Minneapolis Zoning & Planning Committee were left with paper copies of this powerpoint.  We would like to share the results of our research with you.

Our neighbor-’hoods have been “green-winked”!

Slide #29: HERC Dioxin Emissions
In 2002, the HERC self-reported emitting 51.89% of all 2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzo-P-Dioxin — the most toxic of this family of chemicals — reported emitted in Minnesota.

Just like that - bam!  The public has been “green-boozled”!

Slide #32: HERC Violation History in Minnesota

Fined $22,000 in 2001—excess hydrochloric acid emissions
Fined $15,000 in 2002—excessive mercury emissions
MPCA issued a Letter of Warning in January 2003
Fined $4200 in 2004—operators lack required certification, etc.

Click here to see the entire presentation.


For letter from East Phillips Improvement Coalition, click here.

For letter from Southeast Como Improvement Association, click here.

For letter from Whittier Alliance, click here.


In the fall of 2010, the Minnesota Nurses Association sent a letter and Resolution to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.  Their excellent documents bear witness to the health dangers inherent in garbage incineration and ask the MPCA to change their hierarchy of waste disposal to make landfilling preferable to burning garbage.  Their letter and Resolution provided material support for the Minneapolis Planning Commission’s valiant refusal to grant a Conditional Use Permit to the HERC garbage incinerator to burn an additional 212 tons of garbage per day in downtown Minneapolis.

              Click here to read the MNA letter and here to read the Resolution.

Climate Crisis Coalition of the Twin Cities sent a superb document to Minneapolis Zoning & Planning Committee members.  Some quotes:  “The reality is that per megawatt hour, incinerators emit more CO2 than any fossil-fuel based electricity source.”  “Rubbish burners are the leading global source of dioxins and actually help to create more of them.”  “Exposure to contaminants has ignited an autoimmune epidemic that affects 23.5 million Americans.”  “. . . we must reduce, restore, reuse and recycle at the point of production and glean materials from landfills.”

Click here to read the complete document.

Eureka Recyling, Institute for Local Self-Reliance, Linden Hills Power and Light, Women’s Environmental Initiative, Will Steger Foundation & Sierra Club North Star Chapter have also sent a powerful letter to the Minneapolis Zoning & Planning Committee members.  Some quotes:  “Recycling & composting create more jobs than disposal & these jobs are green jobs that protect the environment.  Furthermore, waste reduction strategies like recycling & composting are cheaper than incineration.”  “Disposal has been subsidized for years, particularly incineration in Minnesota, hiding the real costs of dispoal & funneling money to dirty technology.”

Click here to read the entire letter.


Covanta Brings More Than Garbage to Falls . . . , Niagara Falls Reporter, August 6, 2013.

Covanta to Go Up in Smoke?, bedfordtoday.co.uk, May 28, 2013.

Covanta Incinerator Decision Is ‘Scandalous’, Councillor Claims, new.co.uk, December 14, 2012.

Costs Adding Up as Incinerator Ash Being Shipped to Alberta, The Globe & Mail, December 5, 2012.

Contamination Seems Worse Than First Thought, The Vancouver Sun, November 3, 2012.

POPI Shuts Down, NewsReviewChico,CA, September 27, 2012.

Trash-Burn Plant Subsidy Put Off, timesunion.com, November 18, 2011. 

Advocates Urge PSC to Reject Covanta’s Petition Seeking Clean Energy Funding for Dirty Garbage Incinerators, American Lung Association, November 2011. 

NY A.G. Doesn’t Buy Covanta’s Claim that WTE Emits Less GHG than Landfill, NY Public Service Commission, August 19, 2011.

U.S. Fine Reignites Anger Over Durham’s Incinerator Plans, The Toronto Star, August 16, 2011. 

Covanta Pulls Out of Merthyr Tydfil 400m Pounds Waste Plan, BBC News, October 24, 2011.

Settlement Reached with Covanta for Air Emissions Violations at Plant in Wallingford, Dept of Energy & Environmental Protection, July 15, 2011.

Ironbound Community Corporation & GreenFaith Announce Settlement, GreenFaith, October 1, 2010.

Covanta Violations of Environmental & Labor Standards in the U.S., Utility Workers Union of America, July 7, 2009.

Legal challenge to Covanta in Durham, Canada 7/23/11 — click here.

Fairfield-based Covanta Sued for Pollution by Connecticut Attorney General, nj.com.business, August 24, 2010.

See this YouTube from folks in Elbert County, GA.

Stop Covanta in Hempstead [NY], stopcovantahempstead, July 29, 2010.

For Violations in Other States, click here


Contact two important public leaders — Mayor Rybak (612-673-2100 or rt@minneapolis.org) & your Council member as soon as possible (keeping in mind the July 23rd hearing has been held over & is yet to take place) & let them know that you do NOT approve of allowing the HERC to increase their amount of garbage burned by 21%.  According to the HERC air permit (expired since 2003, http://www.pca.state.mn.us/air/permits/issued/05300400-003-aqpermit.pdf ), this burner is allowed to send over 2.9 million pounds per year of health-damaging pollutants up these smokestacks. This includes 2200 pounds of lead and 360 pounds of mercury. For 2002, the burner operators reported actual emissions of over one million pounds.

Covanta is asking to burn an average of 212 more tons of garbage a day at the HERC plant. The maximum allowed now is 1000 tons so this is a 21 percent increase. It could amount to over 77,000 more tons a year!  This is more toxins in the air we breathe; this is increased health risk to our population; this is an out-moded method of processing garbage.

Tell both the Mayor & your council member that you want to see the city spending resources on achieving Zero Waste by separating & utilizing the organic components of garbage (they can be used as compost); recycling metals & glass and reducing petroleum-based plastics at the point of manufacture.  The choice between burn & landfill is in large part — FALSE!  We can reduce, reuse, & recyle garbage — San Francisco has achieved 85%; we are somewhere at 40% — we can do better!

Here are the names of Minneapolis Council members:

Ward    Council Member

1    Kevin Reich   (612) 673-2201  Kevin.Reich@ci.minneapolis.mn.us

2    Cam Gordon   (612) 673-2202   Cam.Gordon@ci.minneapolis.mn.us

3    Jacob Frey (612) 673-2203   jacob.frey@minneapolismn.gov

4    Barbara Johnson   (612) 673-2204    Barbara.Johnson@ci.minneapolis.mn.us

5    Blong Yang (612) 673-2205   http://www.minneapolismn.gov/ward5/contact-ward5

6    Abdi Warsame (612) 673-2206   http://www.minneapolismn.gov/ward6/contact-ward6

7    Lisa Goodman   (612) 673-2207     Lisa.Goodman@ci.minneapolis.mn.us

8    Elizabeth Glidden   (612) 673-2208   Elizabeth.Glidden@ci.minneapolis.mn.us

9    Alondra Cano (612) 673-2209  http://www.minneapolismn.gov/ward9/contact-ward9 

10  Lisa Bender (612) 673-2210 lisa.bender@ci.minneapolis.mn.us

11   John Quincy  (612) 673-2211    John.Quincy@ci.minneapolis.mn.us

12    Andrew Johnson (612) 673-2212   andrew.johnson@minneapolismn.gov

13    Linea Palmisano (612) 673-2213   http://www.minneapolismn.gov/ward13/contact-ward13