The Ramsey/Washington County Resource Recovery Project Board is a joint powers board created by Ramsey and Washington Counties, responsible for administering joint solid waste resource recovery activities and selected other programs on behalf of the two counties. The Project Board is comprised of nine (9) elected county commissioners, five (5) from Ramsey County and four (4) from Washington County. The Project Board is staffed by members of the Counties’ respective public health departments, and is served by a variety of consultants.
The primary responsibility of the Project Board’s is a Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) processing facility, currently owned and operated by Resource Recovery Technologies (RRT) in Newport, Minnesota. The facility has been in commercial operation since 1987, and was developed in a partnership between the two counties and Northern States Power Company (NSP). The facility processes mixed municipal solid waste into five streams: ferrous metals, non-ferrous metals, refuse derived fuel (RDF), process residue, and non-processible bulky waste. The facility operates pursuant to a Processing Agreement between RRT and the Project Board which extends through 2015.
The Ramsey/Washington County Resource Recovery Project (Project) was created in the early 1980’s following a bad experience with a jointly-operated landfill that polluted groundwater. As a result of the health and environmental issues raised by the dependence on land disposal of waste, and prompted by Minnesota’s Waste Management Act, County Commissioners decided to evaluate alternatives to landfills, and worked jointly through a Joint Powers Agreement.
The examination of waste-to-energy as a waste conversion technology began in the East Metro area when the City of Saint Paul received a U.S. EPA grant to study its potential. When the City’s evaluation showed that the best markets for energy were outside the City limits, Ramsey and Washington Counties began to jointly evaluate options. The original focus was on a mass-burn facility that would have been located in the City of Lake Elmo and sending steam to the 3M campus in Maplewood. The Counties also looked into the potential of producing RDF to be used as fuel source, especially when Northern States Power (NSP) showed a willingness to convert two (2) retired power plants to use that fuel source.
In 1987, the Counties entered into a 20-year agreement with NSP, to design, build, own and operate a facility to process waste into fuel RDF. NSP built the facility on land that it owned in Newport, near the intersection of I-494 and U.S. Highway 61.
Subsequently, NSP transferred ownership to a wholly-owned subsidiary, NRG, which eventually became an independent corporation: NRG Energy, Inc. That firm sold the facility to RRT in late 2006, as the original 20-year agreement was nearing the end of its term.
Under that original agreement the Counties were responsible to assure delivery of waste, pay for processing, secure contracts with landfills, and absorb a number of other business risks associated with operation of a resource recovery facility. When NRG sold the facility to RRT, the Counties worked with RRT to work towards a more market-based approach, with less government risk, for the management of waste at the facility. The Counties and RRT entered into a six-year agreement, through 2012, in which RRT would take steps to make the facility competitive with landfills. That approach did not succeed, and a market-based approach does not appear feasible in the East Metro area at this time.
Currently, the Counties and RRT are in a three-year agreement, which expires at the end of 2015. During the period 2013-2015 the Counties are involved in a significant policy analysis to evaluate the future of waste processing, and design changes to the waste management system in the East Metro area | more information
Since 2003 the Counties have been working jointly on separate management of organic waste. Beginning in 2013 the Counties launched BizRecycling, a two-county program to promote businesses and institutions starting or enhancing recycling and separate organic waste management programs | more information about BizRecycling
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