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An EIS is necessary for Heartland

Fri, Jan 14th, 2005
Posted in Commentary

On Tuesday, January 11, the Winona County Board became the latest in a growing list of area governments calling on the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to require an Environmental Impact Statement on the proposed Heartland tire-burning plant. Word has it that Olmsted and La Crosse counties will consider similar resolutions prior to the MPCA Citizens’ Board meeting on the matter on January 25.

Recently, the city councils in Decorah and Lanesboro, cities that will be downstream from the proposed plant, passed resolutions calling for an EIS. You may also remember that back in November 2002, the Preston City Council took action asking the MPCA for an impact study.

These are not random acts. In October 2003, the Fillmore-Houston Joint Board of Health called for an environmental study on Heartland. The Zumbro Valley Medical Society, a professional medical group with members in Olmsted, Houston, Dodge, Fillmore and Winona counties, followed suit. They cited the potential adverse effects the plant could have on health.

This past November, Fillmore County commissioner Duane Bakke led the charge by the county board to deny Heartland a JOBZ business subsidy for its proposed plant saying that Heartland did not fit into his vision of development for Fillmore County.

Commissioner Chuck Amunrud, who also opposed the subsidy, cited his concerns that Heartland would be incompatible with the Fillmore County comprehensive plan, and in particular, recreation, agriculture and tourism.

Commissioner Helen Bicknese, who joined Bakke and Amunrud in speaking in opposition to Heartland, noted the impact the tire-plant would have on other industries, notably tourism, which has been an evolving economic force in the area.

“It is my opinion that Heartland is a bad idea economically, environmentally, and just the perception of this plant locating here is causing economic harm to our local economy,” Bakke said at the time.

The board was unanimous in saying no to Heartland on JOBZ.

Now it is time to take the next step.

Both the Fillmore and Houston County Boards need to pass formal resolutions calling for an EIS on Heartland. They need to do this before the Citizens’ Board convenes to send a message that there are too many questions that the Environmental Assessment Worksheet does not answer. Questions that can only be answered through a more intensive environmental study. The citizens in these two counties need to know how this plant, if built, will affect their health, the environment around them, as well as their pocketbooks.

Will property values go down if Heartland is built?

Will Heartland affect agriculture or tourism in any way?

Will the incidence of asthma increase among school children? Is it necessary that a health baseline, which would establish benchmarks on a number of health indicators, be created?

Will the quality of our ground water be impacted in any way? What about our creeks and streams?

What has been the experience of other communities with tire-burning plants, or similar industries?

Should we expect our quality of life to change because of Heartland?

This fall, a petition with 7,000 signatures was delivered to Governor Pawlenty by Citizens Against Pollution asking for an EIS. The two county boards owe it to their citizens, many of whom were signatories to this petition, to pass resolutions calling for an Environmental Impact Study on Heartland.

This should be done for the common good of all the people who live here.

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