Proposed Waste Disposal Facility Has Some MN Residents Talking Trash

By KBJR News 1

February 10, 2011 Updated Feb 11, 2011 at 1:04 AM CDT

Palisade, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) --- "The people here do not want it," Palisade resident Dave Trapp said.

"It" is a plasma arc gasification facility.

"Here" is Palisade, Minnesota, where a community has been divided over a proposal to bring the facility to full operation by the summer of 2014.

"It has torn not only neighbors apart," Palisade resident Kaija Kokesh said, "but it has torn friends and has even torn families apart."

In fact, some 800 Palisade and nearby residents have signed a petition in opposition to the proposed gasification facility.

The Palisade Energy Park web site says every day, from communities within 100 miles of Palisade, the facility would bring in 225 tons of municipal solid waste and 75 tons of used tires.

That material would then be broken down and used to create steam and bioethanol.

Kelly Olson, a Palisade business woman, who is part of the Palisade Energy Park team, says she hopes the project will create 80 new jobs for the area.

"We would be able to revive a town that's really suffering," Olson said. "That's why we're doing it. We're trying to create a better environment for our neighbors."

Many of those who signed the petition opposing the plant have formed a group called Protecting Aitkin County Concerned Citizens (PACCC).

They say new jobs aren't enough to validate what they see as disrupting the life they've built in Palisade.

"The losses that we take in real estate values, the losses that we take in tourism, the losses that we take in our fishing and hunting industries, I believe, will absolutely negate that," Kokesh said.

Members of PACCC say that any runoff from the plant could follow low–lying land all the way from the plant to the Mississippi River, and they say that could cause some serious environmental concerns in the future.

"That will affect the Mississippi going all the way down to the Gulf," Trapp said of the proposed location, "because you'll have those contaminants that are being carried through all that stuff."

"Is this a risk we want to take for our community," Palisade resident Stacy Tyren said, "when statistics are saying younger generations aren't going to live as long as their parents because of the toxins in our environment?"

The Palisade Energy Park web site calls the facility's design a closed loop, meaning no outside emissions.

Olson said the toughest thing has been dealing with the backlash in the community.

"People don't want this in their backyard," Olson said, "and they'll do everything they can to not have this in their backyard just because they're afraid of change."

Minnesota Pollution Control Agency officials said they have spoken with Palisade Energy Park about the proposal, but that the company has not yet filed any applications for permits or environmental review.

After this story was gathered, the CEO of Palisade Energy Park contacted the NewsCenter and said Kelly Olson is not authorized to speak on behalf of the company.

A request for an official comment on this issue was declined.

Posted by Zach Schneider