Macalester should support clean energy solution for Rock Tenn


With the closure of Xcel Energy’s High Bridge power plant, Rock Tenn, Minnesota’s largest paper recycling plant, is now faced with the problem of finding a new energy source.Different energy pathways are still being pursued by the various stakeholders. However, it now appears that refuse-derived-fuel (RDF) is emerging as the main option. RDF is essentially garbage (municipal solid waste) and is defined as a renewable energy source under Minnesota state law.

However, RDF is neither a renewable nor a safe energy choice. Garbage incineration will saturate our air with fine particulates, heavy metals, increased carbon dioxide and various toxins. These pollutants have been linked with increased rates of various cancers, asthma, and infant mortality. An RDF facility is not a solution to our waste problems, either; our air is not a landfill. Considering our municipal trash an energy source will discourage recycling and zero waste efforts. Finally, RDF facilities are more expensive than the alternatives. For these reasons, RDF facilities have been on the decline in the US over the last fifteen years.

Macalester students, faculty and staff should be keenly concerned with the developments at Rock Tenn. We are located less than two miles away from the facility, and any pollution from the plant would flow directly through our campus and surrounding neighborhood. While the City of St. Paul has the authority to make the ultimate decision concerning the future of Rock Tenn’s energy source, our concerns are not unheard. Environmental sustainability, public health, union jobs and the future of industry in St. Paul all deserve attention.

As students, faculty and staff of Macalester College, we must get involved, for our own health and the health of our community. However, we should also understand that we cannot simply export or move this problem away from us. RDF is not a solution anywhere.

Rather, we are committed to a just solution that simultaneously promotes sustainable environmental conditions and economic stability for Rock Tenn and its employees. In order to build a healthier resolution, we urge any and all groups connected to the Macalester community to take a firm position against an RDF facility at Rock Tenn or elsewhere.

While our administration has been reluctant to take positions in the past, this is a direct threat to our personal health and well-being. We must as a college support alternatives. We propose that Macalester College make a statement to Rock Tenn and the city of St. Paul that we do not condone an RDF facility and the externalities it would bring.

The time has come for our students, faculty and administration to take decisive action against the burner. We can raise public awareness, stimulate dialogue, contact local representatives, support community organization and immerse ourselves and our institution within the process. The potential repercussions that exist in this case are grave and far too immense to ignore. We must make it know to the community that Macalester cares.

Raisa Behal

Kai Bosworth

Patrick Ewing

Elise Griffin

Tom Klink

Molly Mayfield

Stephen Murphy-Logue

Tue Tran

Ross Donihue

Rebekah Holmes

Ann Baltzer