A businessman has abandoned plans to build a tire-burning power plant in southeastern Minnesota, saying he was giving up in the face of mounting pressure from opponents and requirements for a costly environmental study.
MINNEAPOLIS A businessman has abandoned plans to build a tire-burning power plant in southeastern Minnesota, saying he was giving up in the face of mounting pressure from opponents and requirements for a costly environmental study.
Residents worried about pollution cheered the decision by developer Bob Maust, who called the move a victory for "mob rule."
"We believe it's probably better that we take our project to an area where the investment and the jobs will be welcome," Maust said in a letter delivered Monday to the mayor of Preston, a community of about 1,400 people tucked into rolling hills about 100 miles southeast of Minneapolis.
In an interview Tuesday, Maust said he would attempt to build the plant someplace else, though he declined to say where.
The decision appears to end years of legal and public-relations battles between Maust and a growing group of environmentalists committed to derailing the project.
Environmentalists filed two lawsuits against the business -- Heartland Energy and Recycling Inc. -- and Maust was about to spend $200,000 or more on an environmental review. He also sued the city over delays in getting a building permit.
"I guess our team decided that litigation probably could go on for a long time and that we might win the battle but lose the war," Maust said, adding that business concerns, such as the lack of a nearby interstate, played a role.
Maust's idea drew opposition when he brought it to the Preston City Council more than four years ago. Opponents argued that the plant and its 20-foot smokestack would pollute the water and air in a remote region increasingly known for bike trails and bed-and-breakfasts.
Environmentalists greeted Maust's decision.
"Numerous people would tell us, 'You can't fight City Hall. It's a done deal and you might as well forget it,'" said Fran Sauer, president of Southeastern Minnesotans for Environmental Protection. "But the more research we did, the more we realized how hazardous it was. So we just kept pushing and hoping we would get answers."
Just two other tire-burning plants are used to generate electricity. Maust's would have been the first that recycles all the steel inside a tire.
It was to burn 200,000 tires a week from as far as Chicago and Kansas City. The plant would have employed about 30 people.
Source: Associated Press