Updated at 3:30 p.m.

Plans to burn more garbage at Hennepin County's facility behind Target Field have not gone up in smoke.

Three years after the county and Covanta Energy fought unsuccessfully to increase the daily burn allowance at the Hennepin Energy Recovery Center (HERC), which handles most of the city's trash, the item is back in front of a City Hall panel.

The City Council's zoning and planning committee will hold a public hearing on Feb. 28 to review an appeal that was filed in 2009, challenging the city planning commission's decision to deny raising the limit. The appeal has been delayed for an extended period at the county's request.

The idea has been controversial because of the potential for added air pollution.

Council Member Gary Schiff, who chairs the committee, said they are holding the hearing because the county was seeking to delay the appeal for another 12 months. Sensing an effort to have the 2014 Council -- with many new faces -- review it, the committee chose to hold a public hearing now.

The committee was "basically saying, 'This has gone on for so long. The public hearing was so long ago. We're not going to allow you to continue this for one more year just so you can pass this off to a new City Council," Schiff said.

The county and Covanta, which runs the facility, want to increase the daily capacity from an average of 1,000 tons per day to 1,212 tons.

It's not all about pollution, however. The trash burning also produces steam that is used to heat downtown buildings and Target Field. 

Another benefit of the HERC, noted by the county, is that it reduces the amount of trash that ends up in landfills.

Photo: A view inside one of the twin garbage incinerators at the HERC in 2009 (Jeff Wheeler)