Without MPCA Citizens' Board, Neighbors Shut Out of Decision
ZUMBROTA TOWNSHIP, Minn. — The Commissioner of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has decided an inaccurate and incomplete Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW) on a proposed factory hog farm in Goodhue County’s Zumbrota Township will not be corrected. Neighbors to the proposed facility learned late last week that Commissioner John Linc Stine had ended any further environmental review of the proposal, despite promises made in December to meet with township residents before such a decision was made. The proposed factory farm would house 4,700 hogs and consist of a 3.7-million-gallon liquid manure holding facility in a part of southeastern Minnesota highly vulnerable to water contamination.
“The EAW for this factory hog operation did not even identify many of my neighbors’ homes and wells,” said Kristi Rosenquist, a Land Stewardship Project (LSP) member and neighbor to the proposed factory farm. “The EAW even claims that this massive 3.7-million-gallon manure pit will be odor-free, which goes against all common sense and documented experience. We needed this done right because our air, water and quality of life depend on it.”
An analysis shows that critical information missing or incorrect in the EAW includes:
• Four homes missing within one mile of the proposal.
• Thirteen wells missing within one mile.
• Visible and well-known sinkholes missing from the karst evaluation.
• An inaccurate air quality report, including incorrect numbers for hydrogen sulfide emissions. Hydrogen sulfide is a poisonous gas with proven negative health impacts.
• The address of the proposed factory farm was wrong on the front page of the EAW.
To read more about the EAW’s inaccuracies and omissions, click here.
At a Dec. 15 meeting with Commissioner Stine, Rosenquist and other neighbors reviewed the mistakes in the EAW and pushed for an inclusive decision-making process. Commissioner Stine committed to meet with neighbors before a final decision was made. A Jan. 30 meeting date was set. However, on Friday, Jan. 20, Rosenquist was informed by a Goodhue County official that he had been informed that the Commissioner had already made a decision not to do a new and accurate EAW. Later in the day, Commissioner Stine confirmed this.
“This just goes to show the danger of relying on one person’s decision when it comes to something that has such major impacts on a community’s future,” said Zumbrota Township resident Kathy Bramble. “Our wellbeing is at stake, yet Commissioner Stine was more concerned with pushing the factory farm permit through.”
For the past two years, final decisions on whether to order new EAWs for controversial projects have resided with the MPCA Commissioner alone. Prior to that, Minnesota citizens could provide input on such decisions via the MPCA Citizens’ Board. Corporate ag interests and other critics of local citizen input pressured the Minnesota Legislature to eliminate the board in 2015.
The factory farm proposal still needs to get a conditional use permit from Goodhue County, where it will face strong opposition from neighboring farmers and rural residents.
“We know this factory farm will push our family farms out of business and pollute our air and water,” said Zumbrota Township farmer Dale Post. “We’ll keep fighting to keep our community safe.”
In addition, even though a decision has been reached, citizens still plan to meet with Commissioner Stine on Jan. 30.