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Certificate of need is a process by which MPCA is offering existing landfills the opportunity to expand their existing capacity.

Why is MPCA issuing the certificate of need (CON)?

In Minnesota the responsibility of managing solid waste is primarily delegated to the counties, while the MPCA retains oversight and supports local efforts through permitting, planning, financial support, and technical assistance.

  • In late 2019, the Great River Energy Resource Recovery Facility in Elk River closed. This facility represented 33% of the seven county metro’s waste-to-energy (WTE) capacity. Consequently, a substantial amount of waste previously managed by this WTE facility was instead sent to metro landfills.
  • In the first quarter of 2020, metro area WTE facilities operated at full capacity.

To ensure the continued safe and proper management of waste materials, MPCA determined that it would be necessary to expand the amount of disposal capacity in the TCMA to manage the waste being generated.

To this end, in July 2020, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) notified landfills located within the TCMA that applications for additional capacity were being accepted. Two TCMA landfills last received additional municipal solid waste capacity in the early 2000s, and that space was intended to last about 10 years. The previously allocated capacity has been used, resulting in TCMA landfill capacity becoming strained. If TCMA landfills are not allowed to expand, Twin Cities residents could end up with no facility to send their waste.

MPCA received applications for additional capacity from the following organizations:

(*) The Rich Valley and Dem-Con landfills currently accept industrial waste and demolition debris. If approved and granted CON capacity, this will be the first time these facilities will accept MSW.

Metro Landfill certificate of need determination – Pending environmental review

Our analysis determined that over the next seven years approximately 5.6 million tons of metro area municipal solid waste (commonly known as trash) will need to be disposed of in a landfill. This waste is what remains after waste is managed through recycling, composting and waste-to-energy. This tonnage does not include waste that currently goes to landfills located in Greater Minnesota or out-of-state facilities. 

The agency has made determinations of how metro area waste would be allocated to the four facilities that requested additional capacity:

  • Burnsville Sanitary Landfill – 1,692,893 tons
  • Dem-Con Landfill – 627,244 tons
  • Pine Bend Sanitary Landfill – 2,398,746 tons
  • Rich Valley Landfill – 893,889 tons

These facilities may need to complete the permitting and environmental review processes. If for some reason a facility does not receive a permit to accept municipal solid waste, that tonnage will be reallocated to other facilities that are capable of accepting the waste. 

MPCA arrived at these determinations through a thoughtful and deliberative process that included a review of current county solid waste plans, consideration of county letters of support to best determine the future location of their waste, future solid waste forecast data, and public comment. The MPCA does not take the decision to expand landfills lightly.

Public comment

MPCA received more than 80 comments that can be classified into the following general categories:

  • Residents do not want landfills to be located near the Minnesota River.
  • Shakopee shouldn’t take waste from the entire metro area.
  • Independent haulers like the added competition in the metro landfill system.
  • MPCA should allocate waste based on environmental sensitivity, not market share.
  • Rather than expand landfills, MPCA should focus on more recycling and composting to reduce the amount of trash generated.
  • MPCA does not have the authority to use environmental justice as a determining factor.
  • Market share is a good way to allocate landfill capacity, but need to make sure that it is done correctly.
  • Future CON process should be clarified for the benefit of the public and facilities.
  • All landfills should be treated equally.
  • The MPCA should continue to follow the waste hierarchy.
  • Concerns about this process impacting Greater Minnesota facilities.

MPCA carefully considered each of the comments received and after reviewing the methodology, determined that the preliminary numbers were accurate, appropriate, and reflect future metro area landfills needs. MPCA recognizes there is public concern about adding landfill capacity. However, the current amount of waste generated in the metro area requires a disposal destination. With fewer waste to energy facilities and high financial and environmental costs associated with hauling trash to a non-metro facility, additional metro area landfill capacity is prudent and necessary. The summarized comments and responses are posted, as well as letter responses.

The certificate of need process seeks to respond to current trends of solid waste generation. Where we are today is a reflection of policies and decisions previously made by individuals, governmental bodies and the private sector. In order to reduce the need for future landfill capacity, we need to work now to implement policies, increase resources for it, and make different decisions at our businesses, public institutions, and homes related to the waste we create.