Saturday, February 9, 2008

Midtown Burner Update

So are you still on the fence with the burner issue??
Here are a few facts that might allow you to get on
board with raising some serious issues about the public
and/or nonpublic process that has gone on regarding the Burner, if you are not
comfortable with opposing the Burner itself, though I am hoping you will arrive at
that point in the near future. Butfirst of all, if you provided a letter of support, at least you could rescind it on these grounds. We have rescinded support and the
EPIC signature from the Good Neighborhood Agreement, but last I heard the Kandiyohi Development project (KDP) guys were not telling anyone and last time
I looked, they still had our names on as supporters and signers.

It seems to many of us that anyone, whether they believe the project may be
valuable or not, certainly should be at least be objecting to the public
procedure and the governmental evaluative process that has allowed it to
come this far. That process seems deeply flawed and pretty inexcusable.
I don’t believe your organization can be on record or even silent about
such a poor process that leaves public health and right-to-know concerns
in the dust, without serious cost to your organization’s credibility. At
the least, this should be in the forefront of some of your organization’s
present concerns.

Here are some of the public process reasons for objecting:

1) Public Notice/Community Engagement: The land sale approval process
which happened in June, 2006, involved a process where the decision to
have a public hearing was made on a Friday (June 16, 2006) to happen on
the following Tuesday, June 20th, 2006. That’s onebusiness day, Monday,
for public notice. It is simply impossible for the public to respond to
such a decision in that amount of time. Given that, I can’t really believe
a response was intended. I don’t even know what the notification process
was/is for that sort of thing, but it is meaningless if it is one business
day, the preceding Monday.

2) Community Benefits: If you look at the document (I’ll send it as
an attachment) you will see on p. 6 that there is almost no real cost/benefit
analysis or due diligence of the “benefits” to the community and there
is not even a column for the negative cost to the community. In fact,
there has been no serious assessment of the cost to this community by
anyone, including the MPCA. See the Technical Support Document created
by the MPCA.

3) Overall Public Process: The MPCA report (Technical Support Document),
which inadvertently shows the potential public health cost to the community,
came out on November 11, 2007. This was long after variances and zoning
changes and almost all relevant decisions and approvals happened in city hall. Everything had moved ahead and was about to happen without asking the one
most important and relevant question, the public health question regarding
the surrounding community of minority and Indigenous people, many of whom
are children and many of whom have health challenges and almost all of whom
are economically struggling.

The whole process for something like this was backward. I think no one really
knew what they were inviting to occur here. We sure didn’t, nor did many
environmental organizations and some neighborhoods that are now rescinding
their support. Despite the fact that I am married to a board member of the
Green Institute, I knew nothing because of the gag order put on the GI
when Michael Krause left. The EPIC board had to figure out everything
through our own research by ourselves. Kandiyohi, the MPCA and governmental
bodies of every sort were no help.

4) Informed Consent: The words: “The facility will be a major source
of Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAP)” figuring prominently on page 2 of the
Technical Support Document prepared for this project have never been uttered
in any of the very polished presentations given by Kandiyohi Developers.
Furthermore, almost no neighborhoods and no governmental bodies haveheard a
serious rival point of view foregrounding either the Hazardous Air Pollution
and/or the environmental justice issues. Given the fact that many of the pollutants are carcinogenic, this is a travesty of public policy, but it also means that informed
consent has been prevented and not occurred all down the line.

5) Environmental Justice: The other issue that has never received visibility is the
environmental justice issue. In the ‘community benefits’ category of the ‘Request
for City Council Action From the Department of Public Works’ of June, 2006,
there are a few jobs, some property tax revenue and the ‘Suggestion of revenue
sharing with local community groups (no details provided)”, which never
materialized for near by residents. In fact there is almost no awareness of
the local neighborhood residents at all. The concrete reality of their lives
seems not to have figured in anywhere. The people not figuring in seems to be
the case everywhere I look, even in our own organization. I can acknowledge that
we made the same mistake. We now see this clearly and have acknowledged this,
but I am waiting for everyone else to acknowledge this also. The truth is:
Kandiyohi presented a very persuasive picture where care for the planet trumped awareness of the well-being of the struggling,impoverished,
immigrant and Indigenous people right in our midst, our very neighbors and friends.

My research is beginning to show that this may be a process occurring nationwide,
where the rush to ‘Save the Planet’ is causing corporations, government and the
public to ignore some of the most vulnerable people who appear to be in the
way. They often live in the places where people want to locate projects like
the Midtown wood burner and are least able to defend their communities against
these projects. To allow a passion for the ideal of saving the planet to cause
us to ignore or blind us to caring for and protecting its more vulnerable people
would not be the first time lofty ideals have compelled people to roll over and
injure those who struggle to protect themselves. This a very old story in human history.

That is why the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency drafted
their "Environmental Policy" for just such a time as this. It states:

"The MPCA will, within its authority, ensure fair and equitable treatment and
meaningful involvement of all Minnesota citizens in the implementation of
federal and state environmental laws, rules, programs, and policies to insure
that minority and economically-disadvantaged communities in Minnesota do
not bear a disproportionate share of the involuntary risks and consequences
of environmental pollution..."

This needs to be acted on.

One of the corporations involved in the Midtown Eco Energy burner,
CH2M Hill, has as its motto, “Solutions without Boundaries”. At this point
I would have to agree. The boundaries that are missing are moral boundaries.
We need to realize this and act. Think about it.

Carol Pass, President, East Phillips Improvement Coalition, EPIC