“Steam Plant” my fat ass…

This just in — Notice from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) that the the Xcel garbage burner air permit is up for comment!

The documents are:

Public comment page: https://mpca.commentinput.com/?id=5GSCgR9YN

Public Notice: https://scs-public.s3-us-gov-west-1.amazonaws.com/env_production/oid333/did200071/pid_209141/project-documents/Xcel%20PN.pdf

Draft Permit: https://scs-public.s3-us-gov-west-1.amazonaws.com/env_production/oid333/did200071/pid_209141/project-documents/Xcel%20PERMIT.pdf

Technical Support Document: https://scs-public.s3-us-gov-west-1.amazonaws.com/env_production/oid333/did200071/pid_209141/project-documents/Xcel TSD.pdf

From the Notice:

The public comment period is also the time to request an Informational Meeting and/or Contested Case, and the requirements are pretty specific:

Alan Muller on Red Wing incineration — from a while ago — and though the City’s incinerator has closed, the Xcel burner remains, covering us with Ramsey and Washington Counties’ garbage emissions:

Viewpoint: Truth re-evaluation of incineration long overdue

I came to Red Wing in 2007 with a background in incineration: Marketing incinerators, as a consultant to the engineering department of a large chemical company, and later opposing them, on health and economic grounds. It felt strange to live in a city that was itself in the garbage incineration business and seemed to care little about the impacts on the health and pocketbooks of residents.

I also found that if I went to a meeting in St. Paul related to garbage policy, in my consulting work, there would often be a Red Wing city official asking the Pollution Control Agency to force other communities to ship more garbage to Red Wing for burning.

Why? The municipal incinerator was losing a lot of money and city officials thought burning more garbage was the answer.

Costly decision

I don’t know what originally caused Red Wing to get into the garbage incineration business in the early 1980s. Even a rudimentary economic analysis should have shown this to be a bad idea. Perhaps it had something to do with the S.B Foot tannery as a steam customer.

In any case, Red Wing has tried ever since to get others to subsidize its poor judgment. For example, in 2006 Red Wing passed an ordinance requiring all the garbage collected in Red Wing to be hauled to the incinerator. This caused the intervention of the Institute for Justice, which noted: “The City of Red Wing, Minn., has unconstitutionally turned its local government into a special interest protected from competition.https://ij.org/case/pauls-industrial-garage-and-gibson-sanitation-v-city The city lost in federal court, but in 2007 a U.S. Supreme Court decision shifted the law somewhat in favor of Red Wing’s position. https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/06pdf/05-1345.pdf

Red Wing officials have claimed that burning garbage supports “environmental goals.” This is not so. The basic chemistry of combustion tells us that every pound of garbage burned yields several pounds of ash, greenhouse gases, and health-damaging air pollutants. Red Wing officials’ real attitudes and values are revealed in this: The city burner had serious permit violations. Eventually, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency took enforcement action.

My file review indicated that the sole concern of the city, including council members, was weaseling out of paying fines. Concern about the possible harmful effects of excess emissions? None.

Speaking out

I began to send an occasional opinion piece to the Republican-Eagle on the unwisdom of all this. To the credit of Editor Anne Jacobson, almost all of these were printed. Whether they have had any impact is unclear.

Eventually the city incinerator became so decrepit it had to be shut down in 2013. This should have triggered a re-evaluation of Red Wing’s involvement in garbage burning, but it did not. Instead, the city transferred its affections to the Xcel Energy garbage burners on Fifth Street.

Xcel is one of the few utilities in the U.S. to be in the garbage-burning business, with burners in Red Wing, Mankato, nd La Crosse. These burners are the highest cost and most polluting of Xcel facilities.

In 2017 the main city garbage building, housing the dead city incinerator and other garbage operations, burned up. Why? Although fires in garbage piles are common, Public Works staff had shut down the fire alarms and didn’t maintain a human fire watch.

This negligence cost millions, and, again, should have triggered a re-evaluation of just why Red Wing is in the garbage business. Yet again, this did not happen.

Recently, the Public Works Department, in a report to the City Council, claimed as an accomplishment that Hastings’ garbage would be coming to Red Wing for burning. (“Secured delivery of MSW tonnages from City of Hastings beginning in 2019”) Just how this could benefit city residents is unstated, but benefit to residents does not seem to be a focus of the City Council.

Eleven years after I started to follow this, the city of Red Wing has apparently learned nothing. I think it must be related to a “Company Town” mentality of letting others do the thinking and decision-making. People don’t get more democracy, or better government, than they insist on, and Red Wing residents just don’t demand very much. It’s scary to think about the quality of information on environmental matters served up in Red Wing schools.

In fairness, the city of Red Wing isn’t the only offender here. The state of Minnesota through the Pollution Control Agency gives astoundingly bad guidance, and Goodhue County-counties are largely assigned responsibility for managing waste under state law-seems way behind the 8-ball. I will write another two episodes on state and county issues.

It’s long past time for people to wake up an assert themselves.

Alan Muller, Red Wing

Has everyone forgotten an earlier Integrated Resource Plan’s pledge to shut down Red Wing and Wilmarth garbage burning by 2012??

Breakfast on Xcel

May 14th, 2008

From this post, my firsthand report:

They had question answer time, and I asked that, given the new IRP says that “For capacity planning and RES compliance planning purposes, we rare assuming that Red Wing and Wilmarth will be retired at the end of 2012,” whether they’d be closing it or selling it. Oh my, gues who farted in the elevator again. They were backpeddling, oh, NO, it doesn’t say that… uh-huh, right… well, guys, take a look at p. 6-7 and the top of 6-8 and you tell me. They will provide the commission with an update in the next IRP. I look forward to seeing it and hope that this thing is out of my neighborhood. Once more with feeling:

For capacity planning and RES compliance planning purposes, we are assuming that Red Wing and Wilmarth will be retired at the end of 2012.

Proverbs 6:16-19 anyone?!?!

June 24th, 2024

This sign is up at the Michigan intersection of M-28 and 123 on the way to Whitefish’s Great Lake Shipwreck Museum. Some yahoo sure picked the wrong scripture for reference!

PUC’s David Boyd?

June 22nd, 2024

For those of you wondering what David Boyd’s been up to since he was term-limited out of the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, wonder no more. The rest of the story turned up in Grand Marais, Michigan, the other Grand Marais. I’d taken a photo much like this, but it’s disappeared, and found this nearly identical one — here ya go:

Turns out, the “David Boyd” boat is the R.V. David Boyd, the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum’s “finder” of sunken ships:

So close, but no cigar!

Didn’t expect it could happen, because I’ve been so antsy, not able to get out on the road for so long, just a couple of quick transmission-road-show trips and quite a few trips out to a township that’s off the rails, couldn’t really work much with all of Alan’s leukemia treatments. The road is my last name, and I’ve not been nailed down so much for as long as I can remember, pushing 30 years?!?! But yes it did happen — I’VE HAD ENOUGH OF LIVING IN A TENT AND WILL BE SO GLAD TO GET HOME.

Since May 1st, camp-hosting for the month, and in that month, got winded and rained out on the 2nd night, lost the screen tent to that storm, and it rained at least every other day. With an inch or more of rain, the vestibule would flood, so I got some shelves and everything was off the ground, and also dug a trench, and when that wasn’t enough, dug a deeper trench and some ponds! That wasn’t enough either, and it kept raining. Other than that, the weather and life in a tent was great, an the deer liked to hang out in the field across the road. That spurt of tenting lasted until June 1, when it was time to drag everything home and “downsize” packing to what could fit in a Prius to hit the road. All necessities fit? I think Sadie would beg to differ:

On June 9, we took off on a long planned and twice canceled trip around Lake Superior, though this time, I figured it best to only try 1/2 the way around. We started with Big Bay State Park on Island:

Third time’s the charm

… then Lake Au Train campground in Hiawatha National Forest, a really nice campground. No electricity, and few people, perfect, and the pit toilets were the best ever — the camp host cleans them every day, and what a difference! Will do a campground review soon.

After a few days at Au Train, we went east, over and up to Pancake Bay Provincial Park in Ontario, where we were seriously rained out the second time, completely flooded and even water inside the main tent. That is NOT supposed to happen with a Wawona 6!!

The plan was to hit Michigan’s Van Riper State Park on the way back., butttttttt… after last Monday night’s rain, flooding us out the worst ever, because somehow rain was blown inside the tent, I think through the mesh on the Lake Superior side during the storm, it was just too much. When it was time to go Wednesday, stuff still hadn’t dried out, so we packed up wet, and canceled Van Riper and are recovering in a hotel for a couple days. Then back home and set it all up to clean up and dry off.

Will be doing campground reviews, Au Train campground and Pancake Bay still to do.

And soon, too soon, time to get back into that utility groove! Homeward bound… somebody ought to write a song…

Third time’s the charm

June 11th, 2024

Have been trying to get around Lake Superior for 3 years now, had campsites reserved, tent tested, but the first time in 2021 COVID remained an issue, then Leukemia in 2023, so it just wasn’t happening. Very frustrating, but as for reasons for cancelling, going really wasn’t an option.

So at long last, Sunday we took off for a 1/2 or maybe 1/3 tour of the south side, starting at Madeline Island. The Big Bay Campground is I think the best in all my travels. For cool campgrounds, Craters of the Moon takes the cake, but as far as a good state park, Big Bay State Park’s campground is it. Do I really need too come back? Well, there is a township meeting that’d be good to go to, but otherwise, most everything is online… and I’m not really back in the groove!

Maybe it’s the cost of the ferry that keeps away the obnoxious big trucks and trailers that cost more than my house and take up more real estate. There are no RV full hookups (whew!), and it’s mostly pit toilets and just one showerhouse for the two loops. Maybe it’s that there’s no phone or internet (there is a cool library!)… This campground is mostly tents, 90% ? and we’re in good company. It is SO quiet, no generators, no TV or radio blaring, no trains, just owls to “cook for you” and those birds starting at 4 a.m.

This was the biggest rig on the ferry, and just this one, plus one smaller one, a hard sided A-Liner.

If you avoid the touristy traps, Madeline Island is great, and I wish I’d reserved at least a week, because this is a real getaway. Our site has only 2 open days left for the season.

Sites are very secluded, probably as the season peaks, it’ll be louder, but right now, perfect.

Did I say the sites are HUGE? Big enough for 3 Wawonas, long gravel driveway, lots of room on the side.

And somebody loves camping!

Until today, the weather has been unbelievable perfect, cool at night, and low 70s in the day, and SUN…

And how the 1% lives:

…until today, but there is a library.

And of course:

And this too: