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Environment committee updated on metro landfills, fund replenishment

The House Environment and Natural Resources Finance and Policy Committee received an update on work being done to maintain several landfills in the Twin Cities metropolitan area, and the status of the trust that make those projects possible, during an informational hearing Tuesday.

Members learned that efforts to repay an account that funds work at these landfills, but has been depleted in past years, may prove successful this year given the state’s financial health and additional federal assistance.

Established in 1984, the Metropolitan Landfill Contingency Action Trust is used to cover the costs of long-term care at some metro landfills that have accepted mixed municipal solid waste. Funding for the trust comes from 25% of the Metropolitan Solid Waste Landfill Fee, which raises $996,000 annually on average, and revenues from the State Board of Investment.

The account currently holds $20.6 million and the sites eligible for MLCAT funding are located in Hennepin, Ramsey and Dakota counties. They include four closed and demolition landfills (Begin, Herbst & Sons, Rosemount and Vadnais Heights); one unpermitted dump (Pigs Eye Dump) and two open landfills (Burnsville and Pine Bend).

Over the years, millions of dollars have been taken from the trust to pay for other things and that money has not been replaced. In 2021, however, a law was enacted to begin transferring $100,000 annually from the General Fund to MLCAT, although under that schedule it would take 140 years to repay the money owed.

Rep. Ruth Richardson (DFL-Mendota Heights), told members the law “falls far short” of the bill she sponsors, HF836, which would require a repayment of the $13.9 million taken from the fund.

She said making the fund whole again is important to ensure public health, environmental justice, the ability to pay for any emergencies that may arise and for the long-term care of the landfills.

“It’s a matter of health, it’s a matter of safety and it’s a level of protection that impacted communities and families deserve,” Richardson said.

Officials from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency detailed some of the work being done at the MLCAT eligible landfills including ongoing investigation and monitoring activities.

Rep. Rick Hansen (DFL-South St. Paul) said the committee has a lot of work to do in the next few weeks but the “unique thing” about the 2022 legislative session, which begins Jan. 31, is that “there may be some opportunity” to resolve ongoing problems with additional state and federal money available.

“With the surplus there’s a great opportunity to pay past debts,” Hansen said.


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