In a unanimous decision on Tuesday, the Hennepin County Board resolved to devise a plan to shut down the longstanding Hennepin Energy Recovery Center (HERC) in downtown Minneapolis between 2028 and 2040. Despite fervent appeals from residents and environmental activists for a swifter resolution, they left the County Board meeting feeling disheartened.

Protesters gathered outside the meeting, brandishing signs urging prompt action in closing the HERC trash incinerator. Inside, community members, especially those residing near HERC, voiced concerns about the facility’s emissions, which they argue disproportionately affect vulnerable communities in the region.

Residents emphasized that the County Board’s endorsed timeline is inadequately slow, considering the urgent health concerns posed by the incinerator. Stephani Maari Booker, a resident of north Minneapolis, urged the board to treat the situation as an emergency, citing the high prevalence of asthma and respiratory diseases in her neighborhood. Others, like Robert Ciborowski, a local teacher residing near Jordan Park, emphasized the need for clean air for the well-being of school children and demanded the HERC’s immediate closure.

The County’s decision to establish an official closure timeline is tied to accessing $26 million allocated by the Minnesota Legislature for an anaerobic digester in Brooklyn Park. State legislators have also endorsed a carbon-free energy plan, eliminating trash incineration as an acceptable energy source by 2040.

This unanimous vote is significant, marking the first time the board has agreed to develop a plan for HERC’s closure. While some commissioners pushed for a shorter timeline, the broader window was agreed upon to allow communities reliant on the incinerator to formulate plans for managing the escalating amount of trash generated by residents.

Commissioner Angela Conley, representing the Fourth District, expressed dissatisfaction with the 2040 deadline, advocating for a plan within five to ten years. Commissioner Debbie Goettel, representing the Fifth District, stressed the need for unified priorities to gain state support for innovative waste reduction methods.

According to estimates from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Hennepin County is projected to generate about 20% more waste by 2042. Last year alone, residents discarded 1.27 million tons of waste, with only 41% recycled or composted, leaving 750,000 tons that required disposal.

Approximately half of this trash is incinerated at HERC, producing electricity sold to Xcel Energy and steam for downtown Minneapolis. Revenue from energy sales supports the county’s environmental initiatives. Environmental advocates argue that a decisive, swift closure timeline would incentivize county officials and leaders to develop creative waste management solutions. They fear that without a stringent deadline, the process to close HERC, operational since 1989, will continue to drag on.

Miasia Wise Asia, a native of north Minneapolis and Minnesota director for the nonprofit Action for the Climate Emergency (ACE), lamented the prolonged battle to close the incinerator, emphasizing the adverse impact on community health. The call for expedited action remains urgent, with residents and advocates continuing to press for a more immediate resolution.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *