A Hennepin County panel approved a five-year agreement Tuesday to send trash to an Elk River plant owned by Great River Energy.

Commissioner Peter McLaughlin hailed the $27 million contract with the waste-to-energy plant as a “darn good deal for taxpayers.” He chairs the county’s Public Works, Energy and Environment Committee, which passed the measure unanimously. Other members also praised the measure, noting that it falls in line with state policies discouraging landfilling and that the contract’s small increases in tipping fees are still well below rates in the county’s longtime contract with the Elk River facility that ended in 2009.

As the Star Tribune reported Monday, McLaughlin’s wife, Nancy Hylden, and Richard Forschler, her colleague at the law firm Faegre Baker Daniels, registered as lobbyists with Great River in late 2009 while the company was desperately trying to regain the county’s trash business and keep the Elk River plant open.

While Forschler acknowledged that he had lobbied commissioners on the issue, Hylden said she hasn’t worked for Great River in years and never lobbied her husband or other commissioners. McLaughlin voted repeatedly for agreements with Great River without disclosing the connection.

He didn’t mention the matter Tuesday, instead praising the agreement as a cost-saver and noted that the county could walk away from the contract with 60 days’ notice.