Neighbors Against the Burner
A Grassroots Citizens’ Group Making Democracy Work & Achieving Successes Against Tremendous Odds
In the fall of 2006, several residents of Merriam Park learned that the Minnesota Legislature had voted to release $2.5 million to design and build a garbage incinerator at their neighborhood Rock-Tenn paper recycling plant. The proposal was to burn RDF (refuse-derived fuel, i.e. chopped-up garbage). This process would have added a whole new layer of pollution to the air in the heart of St. Paul and surrounding neighborhoods. Legislative proposals had already reached a Conference Committee; however, neighbors in the Merriam Park/Mac-Groveland/Hamline/St. Anthony Park/Highland Park areas were appalled at the possibility of massive new pollution piled on top of the 94 freeway fumes. Volunteer citizens met frequently to draw up a plan for what could be done to halt this assault on public health.
The group called themselves Neighbors Against the Burner and began to reach out to other neighbors — putting up yard signs, educating citizens at block parties and community festivals, and holding meetings to talk about the threat of garbage incineration to St. Paul air quality. Through their intensive efforts and organization, these citizen activists were successful in stopping the construction of two proposed garbage incinerators: at the Rock-Tenn plant as well as the so-called Eco Burner in the Phillips neighborhood. A parallel citizens’ group — Minneapolis Neighbors for Clean Air (MNCA) — was established to harness the energies of Minneapolis citizens to bring the health dangers of the Eco Burner to the attention of the public and thereby halt its construction. MNCA continues to educate politicians and the public about the ongoing health threat of the HERC in the heart of downtown Minneapolis
More recently, NAB was concerned about statements from the City of St. Paul that incineration was being considered as part of the Ford Site redevelopment. After publication of objections in the Villager and on e-democracy lists, the City announced that incineration or “biomass” was “off the table.”
As of October, 2015, NAB is concerned about a decision by a joint powers bpard of Ramsey and Washington counties to buy the RRT garbage grinder in Newport. The stated intention is to burn 60 thousand tons per year more garbage. The actual burning of the ground-up garbage takes place in Red wing and Mankato in converted 1940s coal plants with expired permits. That has got to stop!
In spite of its victories, NAB has continued diligently to carry out its educational mission to inform all Minnesotans about clean and viable energy alternatives to polluting garbage incineration. Today NAB carries forward its campaign of education to policy makers at city, county, and state levels — as well as the public — to share the facts about the dangers of incinerating solid fuels and wastes. Through their tireless efforts and focused dedication, NAB & MNCA volunteers have saved their fellow Minnesotans from the detrimental health effects of ill-advised new garbage incinerator construction. Challenges remain, however, and NAB will continue to speak truth to power and use citizen clout to help secure clean, healthy air for all Minnesotans to breathe.
Neighbors Against the Burner Mission Statement
Neighbors Against the Burner speaks with a community voice to protect the people and natural resources of Minnesota by supporting sustainable, safe, and clean energy production and rejecting unsafe, polluting, and outdated technologies such as incineration.
Neighbors Against the Burner Supports:
- conservation, the cleanest source of energy, and proposes that public funds be spent to achieve this
- the promotion of safe and clean sources of energy — such as wind, solar, geothermal and other emerging technologies — for the citizens of Minnesota as the Minnesota Legislature has mandated
- Zero Waste initiatives that include recycling, reusing, composting and the reduction of packaging as a basic solution to waste management
- public subsidies for sustainable and renewable energy production which meet the goal of cleaner air, water and land for the state of Minnesota
Neighbors Against the Burner Opposes:
- the burning and/or incineration of solid fuels and wastes
- public subsidies for garbage generation and burning
- diminished air quality that threatens the health of the citizens of Minnesota