Last night, there was a meeting held at Hamline … passive language, I know… I was going to say “sponsored by…” but I can’t really figure that out. So let’s identify all the suspects: At the auditorium entry taking names and emails was Justin Eibenholzl, Southeast Como Improvement Association. Beyond that toward the door was Nina “don’t quote me!” Axelson, Community Organizer for St. Anthony Park Community Council – District 12, telling Neighbors Against the Burner that they could not hold signs outside the door of the auditorium! And running interference out in the hall was Carl Nelson of the Green Institute. Who should stroll in but Steve Taff, U of M Applied Economics, the guy who does things like “Pathways to a reduced-carbon energy system for the Midwest.” District Heating’s Anders Rydaker and Bill Malum, Ken Smith (the site blurs District Heat/Market Street) were there, but what can you say about an entity that brags about a visit from Bush? And of course there were at least two from Rock-Tenn, Steve Haselmann and Jack Greenshields.

I was in on this because a certain Mr. Muller was pulled in by Neighbors Against the Burner to lend his technical expertise (garbage burners have been run out of Delaware and they’ve got strong legislative language to keep them out!). These fights are all the same, and this is Alan’s forte.

For some reason, the neighbors are finding that those they’d expect to support their efforts to stop the burner are taking very odd and painful positions — and that has much to do with the Metropolitan Emissions Reduction Project that’s shutting down Xcel’s St. Paul High Bridge coal plant. There’s a problem here, because Rock-Tenn has painted itself as the poor victim of MERP, which is shutting down the coal High Bridge Plant and there goes Rock-Tenn’s steam, and of course it’s all the enviro’s fault and all the legislators fault that High Bridge is closing, poor Rock-Tenn, they’d better do something to help poor Rock-Tenn. And they forget to mention that Rock-Tenn’s 20 year contract with NSP for that steam is up in July, 2007. Or that the garbage burner that Rock-Tenn dreams of is not only much higher priced than natural gas, but it requires massive public subsidies to not only build the burner, but to build a bigger Newport facility to collect garbage and another C&D facility to deal with that — oh, isn’t this a great idea for our tax dollars? No tax dollars for health care, but tax dollars to make us sick…

A few main things that jump out at me — THIS IS THE OPINION OF OVERLAND:

1) The legislation and the enviros’ MERP deal did NOT create Rock-Tenn’s contractual problem and the demise of its steam supply. End the guilt — don’t take on their problems!
2) Hey, Rock-Tenn, ever hear of laches? They knew the contract was running out and they pay big bucks for legislative and administrative representation. They did not say a peep in the MERP docket and din’t bother to intervene — only send a pissy letter at the very end.

3) To the extent there are any public subsidies, there must be an equal public equity interest!

Here are some of the handouts:

Agenda and Contact Info

Rock-Tenn language from SF 2096 Energy Omnibus Finance

Rock-Tenn Steam Permit FAQ

Here’s the Green Institute report, which has a very narrow scope for the $$$ paid:

 Green Institute – Biomass Fuel Report

Here’s the “FrOTH” report promoting a garbage burner:

(where did that go???)

Here’s a Memorandum of Understanding between MPCA and Rock-Tenn:

Memorandum between MPCA and Rock-Tenn

And here’s an interesting Resolution from Ramsey County supporting a “legislative MERP charge” for Rock-Tenn which for some reason doesn’t mention that in July 2007  the Rock-Tenn Contract runs out:


I’ve still got some reports to scan in, others to find, and will post those and some more links someday soon…

5 Responses to “Between a Rock-Tenn and a hard place!”

  1. Alan Muller Says:

    Thanks, Carol, for the report on this. Your knowledge of utility regulatory matters in MN is comprehensive….

    Strange that so many pols, “enviros” and others who should know better seem to thing that burning garbage and other “biomass” is a good idea. A little research on the health effects of this should change their minds pronto.


  2. Susie Says:

    Thanks Carol, We’re so glad to have you and Alan involved. It’s a mystery to me why it makes sense to put in garbage burner when the High Bridge Plant was reworked to create cleaner emissions!! HELLOOO??? It makes no sense.
    Thanks for your help!!
    Neighbors Against the Burner

  3. Nina Axelson Says:

    I would like to invite anyone interested to post their thoughts, links to research, or any other points of dialogue on the the Rock-Tenn Interested Neighborhoods listserv. There are about 25 members currently, but I believe it could be a good method for exchanging ideas and information.
    To join, send an e-mail to RTIN-subscribe@yahoogroups.com.


    Nina Axelson
    Community Organizer
    St. Anthony Park Community Council

  4. Alan Muller Says:

    Here is a message I posted to the “RTIN” list on April 12, 2007: (there was no response to it on the list)

    Yep. I don’t know MN politics, but if I were representing health and quality of life concerns in the target communities, I’d be unsatisfied with this. “Local community organizations” could be one or two stooge organizations–perhaps dominated by facility employees told their jobs were on the line. If it said “consensus of the community” or “approved by a community referendum,” or some such thing, I’d feel better. But even then, only if the communities were truly informed, and not just fed the common line that anything that can be permitted is OK and they can rely on the environmental regulatory process….

    RDF is as bad or worse, typically, than mass-burn garbage incineration. Taking out cans and bottles that don’t burn is fine, but left is the combination of chlorinated plastics and woody materials that tend to make dioxin; effective removal of batteries and other mercury-containing items is unlikely; fugitive dust from ash handling is a problem …. a bad deal all around.

    On the other hand, the reports I saw were rather narrowly focused. Has there been a process analysis to determine the actual steam needs of an optimized facility? Very often such a review finds that energy needs can be greatly reduced with process improvements. One approach to this is called “pinch analysis” in the ChemE world. This should be step one in addressing this matter.

    What are the emissions from the paper plant itself?

    What are the emissions from the coal burner to be shut down?

    What is the real story on the existing plant boilers?

    What about the health hazards of Diesel emissions from hauling solid fuels in? These are likely to be a very significant health hazard and not considered in the normal permitting of a “stationary source”….

    If this whole matter is properly handled, looking at the big picture rather than selected narrow slices of it, substantial community air quality improvements might result.


  5. Justin Eibenholzl Says:

    Actually I prefer to go by the name “Kaiser Soeze”, and my lesser known title is Supreme Viceroy of Environmental Operations for the Comocean Empire. I generally propose fueling burners with ignorance and apathy because lord knows there’s enough of that to go around and it is completely renewable.

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