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City addresses citizens' concerns over ash processing, waste-to-energy facilities

At the Jan. 23 city council meeting, several citizens expressed concerns regarding the proposed ash processing facility and the Xcel Waste-to-Energy trash burning facility. During the council workshop last weekend, Pubic Works Director Rick Moskwa provided the city's response:

• Current emissions from the Waste-to-Energy facility are below standards set by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA). The current facility emits significantly fewer emissions than the coal plant it replaced.

• According to Moskwa, "since the incorporation of the facility in 2010, the City has increased recycling tonnages by well over 100% in six years."

• The city is not advocating for more waste to be burned in Red Wing. Instead, the city's goal is to have more locally produced trash burned locally, thereby reducing the amount of trash brought in from the Twin Cities Metro Area.

Moskwa also explained that the recently approved $2 million dollar grant is "in no way connected to the ash metal recovery operations proposed by Xcel Energy and Lab USA."

The grant comes from the Renewable Energy Development fund, which was put into place by the Minnesota Legislature. The program encourages the Prairie Island and Monticello nuclear power plants to explore alternative energy sources beyond fossil fuels and nuclear power.

While Xcel funds the program, it is the Public Utilities Commission, run by an independent panel, who decides the grant recipients. The city applied for grant funding in 2013, but the request was initially denied. However, after several other projects could not move forward, the PUC informed the city that their project was eligible for funding. The city worked over the next year to solidify the grant, culminating in the final contract that came before council Jan. 23.

Another concern raised at the Jan. 23 meeting was the proximity of the proposed ash processing facility to burial mounds. Moskwa noted the city hired two consultants, who conducted a study of the area. The study came back negative for cultural material.

Planning Director Brian Peterson addressed the concerns of the State Archaeologist's office. "The state has a database that is very general. We hired archaeologists to determine the sites more specifically," said Peterson.

Still, all city staff stressed that the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency will review all relevant concerns and make the final decision.

The Environmental Assessment Worksheet's (EAW) public comment period closed Jan. 31. The MPCA and city will address all relevant questions posed to the EAW within the next several weeks.