A publication of Work On Waste USA, Inc., 82 Judson, Canton, NY 13617 315-379-9200 OCTOBER 1993



On October 5th, Dakota County Commissioners voted 5 to 2 against building a 600 tpd municipal waste incinerator.

The State, in 1992, had issued all the necessary permits to build the incinerator. The County spent 5 years and between $6 to $7 million to build it. This was an incinerator battle that the Citizens WON against all odds.


A decisive moment in the citizens’ battle against their elected County Officials occurred at an April 1989

meeting of the Dakota County Commissioners. When the citizens voiced their concerns about the proposed incinerator to their Commissioners [at that time a fiercely pro-incinerator 5-member board], the Commissioners walked out of the room and turned off the lights!! At that point one concerned resident, Dee Richards, said to the approx. 100 citizens in attendance: “We hired them, we pay their salaries, and if they refuse to be accountable to their citizens, then we will fire them.” Dee Richards, the woman who spoke up, was elected County Commissioner in the November 1992 election.

Reason for Incinerator Defeat: According to Frank Hornstein of Clean Water Action Alliance in Minneapolis: “The incinerator was killed because of flow control. There is no way [the county commissioners] are going to have the taxpayers risk a $100 million debt when there is no mechanism to secure capacity. No one in their right mind would build a facility without flow control.” Hornstein said the citizens pursued a “classic citizens’ campaign.” They became highly involved in the whole county process and thoroughly informed on the technical issue. They held rallies, press conferences, ran literature drops, town meetings; went to the Governor’s house and office and to the State Legislature. “This is a huge defeat because the county had a permit. A year ago they were all set to start construction.” The citizens’ successful effort to get anti-incinerator Commissioners elected in the November 1992 election proved to be the turning point that defeated the incinerator industry in Dakota County.

Brief History of the Incinerator Battle in Dakota County:

1988: The County signed a contract with Combustion Engineering (C-E) for an 800 ton per day municipal waste incinerator.

1990: C-E sold out to Asea Brown Boveri (ABB). The County’s incinerator contract went to ABB.

1991: In November, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) denied, for the first time in its history, the permit to build the municipal waste incinerator. --See Waste Not # 174.

1992: ABB appealed the MPCA’s permit denial. They won and were granted the necessary permits to build in August. The MPCA refused to appeal this decision and agreed to settle for a down-sized 600 tpd incinerator. The citizens’ groups, however, did appeal. They lost when the Minnesota State Supreme Court, on Friday, October 30th, denied to hear their appeal. At this point the County was ready to break ground to build the incinerator. The citizens, undeterred by the permits granted by the State and the millions spent by the county, campaigned as hard as they could to get anti-incinerator County Commissioners elected. Their message to Dakota County residents: ‘This is our last chance to stop it.’ They won. On Tuesday, November 3rd, three anti-incinerator county Commissioners were voted into office. During 1992, ABB was in the process of pulling out of the municipal waste incinerator industry. The Wall Street Journal on 11-23-92 (see Waste Not # 218) announced that ABB agreed to sell its waste-to-energy industry to OGDEN MARTIN. The county proceeded to renegotiate the contract with OGDEN. The contract was never finalized due to the Nov. elections.

1993: In January, the new County Commissioners put the incinerator contract on hold while requesting a review of all available and alternative ways to handle the waste. County staff hired R.W. Beck and RRS out of Ann Arbor, Michigan. According to Frank Hornstein of Clean Water Action: “R.W. Beck was the principal consultant for the county in charge of comparing waste processing facilities. They appeared very biased against mixed waste composting and very favorable to mass burn and refuse- derived-fuel; very shallow on the ash issue...However, they admitted that a mass-burn incinerator would be twice as expensive as composting.” According to Hornstein, RRS’s report showed that if the county did source-separated composting and recycling they could achieve a 70% diversion of the waste stream. The pro-burn county staff and R.W. Beck dominated the “official” process. In September the county terminated its contract with ABB. According to Louis J. Breimhurst, director of the County’s Physical Development department: “Up until [September] the county was continuing with a waste-to-energy facility or RDF.” Breimhurst said that NRG Energy (out of Delaware), owned by Northern States Power, was the RDF vendor. Joanie Davis of the Dakota County Citizens for Alternatives to Burning said the County Commissioners directed Breimhurst’s department to review the resolution (see below) that severed the county’s ties with incineration. Davis said their response was a 40-page effort to untrack the resolution! On Oct. 4th the St. Paul Pioneer Press ran an editorial against the incinerator. On Oct. 5th, the day of the Commissioners’ vote, the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s editorial was: Burning Trash: A chance to say no.

Major Proponents:

1. What is important to remember about this proposal is that in 1992 the MINNESOTA POLLUTION CONTROL AGENCY issued all the permits necessary to build this incinerator. Minnesota prides itself as “The Land of 10,000 Lakes.” 2. The staff of Dakota County’s Physical Development Department. According to Joanie Davis, “the staff were hired specifically to shepherd this project through.” Staff members include: Director, Louis Breimhurst; Environmental Manager, Barry Schade, and Gayle Prest. 3. Up until the election in November 1992, the Dakota County Commissioners.

Major Opponents:

** The lead citizens’ group against the incinerator was the DAKOTA COUNTY CITIZENS FOR ALTERNATIVES TO BURNING; Clean Water Action Alliance (Frank Hornstein); Greenpeace, and The Land Stewardship Project, a Minnesota farmers group. FOR MORE INFO. CONTACT: Joanie Davis of Dakota County Citizens For Alternatives to Burning, tel # 612-452-2635; or Frank Hornstein of Clean Water Action Alliance in Minneapolis, tel # 612-623-3666.

Full Text of the Resolution Passed, 5-2, by the Dakota County Commissioners on 10-5-93:

WHEREAS, the Dakota County Board of Commissioners has devoted an inordinate amount of time, effort and money to the implementation of responsible solid waste programs aimed at meeting the State hierarchy of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Resource Recovery/Composting and finally Landfilling; and

WHEREAS, substantial changes in both technology and public interest in waste management and environmental issues has had an impact on the success of programs higher on the State hierarchy; and

WHEREAS, other policy and regulatory agencies such as the Metropolitan Council, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and Office of Waste Management, have caused delays in decision-making and have more recently produced reports indicating that existing processing facilities have enough capacity to process the waste generated in Dakota County and the rest of the metro area; and

WHEREAS, State law does not require the County to build a facility to process waste, rather that waste must be processed before going to a landfill; and

WHEREAS, Dakota County has a long-standing philosophy of encouraging, and avoiding competition with free enterprise; and

WHEREAS, flow control or designation has been ruled unconstitutional which diminishes the County’s ability to require haulers to deliver waste to a publicly-financed or supported facility; and

WHEREAS, the prices provided by NRG and other proposers to process the County’s waste are high enough to make a facility uncompetitive with other facilities available to haulers; and

WHEREAS, substantial interest in private ownership and management of Material Recovery Facilities (MRF) make it unnecessary for the County to pursue construction of a MRF; and

WHEREAS, other states have imposed a severance tax on material leaving its borders, which tax has been found constitutional,

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, That Dakota County terminates all negotiations with NRG and other vendors; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That the differential surcharge at MSW landfills be eliminated and the base surcharge increase by $3.33 per cubic yard, effective January 1, 1995, so as to eliminate the price incentive to landfill; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That staff is hereby directed to prepare ordinance amendments and/or licensing requirements for implementation no later than January 1, 1995 which mandate recycling, require that waste haulers licensed in the County must deliver MSW waste to a processing facility, prohibit MSW landfills in the County from receiving unprocessed waste and require that County MSW waste that is landfilled must be placed over a landfill which has liners and a leachate collection system meeting Subtitle D landfill requirements; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That staff is hereby directed to discontinue further work on a County-owned or financed MRF or other solid waste processing facility; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That future waste management facilities proposed in the County should proceed on the basis of nonpublic ownership, financing and/or risk; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That staff is hereby directed to prepare appropriate amendments to the County’s Solid Waste Master Plan to reflect the direction of this resolution; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That the Dakota County Legislative Delegation is hereby encouraged to adopt legislation to assist the County in the implementation of the policies contained herein, and County staff is hereby directed to prepare legislative proposals, including a severance tax, for inclusion in the County legislative package

WASTE NOT # 250. A publication of Work on Waste USA, published 48 times a year. Annual rates are: Groups & Non-Profits $50; Students & Seniors $35; Individual $40; Consultants & For-Profits $125; Canadian $US50; Overseas $65. Editors: Ellen & Paul Connett, 82 Judson Street, Canton, NY 13617. Tel: 315-379-9200. Fax: 315-379-0448.