The city of Cottage Grove has made it clear: It doesn't want 3M Co. to take 16 to 18 million pounds of hazardous waste from other businesses to burn as fuel in the company's industrial incinerator.

The council unanimously voted 5-0 Wednesday to amend its zoning ordinance to ban commercial incinerators. But it could be a moot point as the incinerator's permit-renewal process with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency proceeds. A decision in the months-long process could come by April or May.

The City Council's move at the jam-packed meeting was aimed at defusing fears that the state's only licensed industrial incinerator, which now burns only waste generated by 3M from across the nation, would be opened up for use by other businesses -- and unknown risks.

The council's action does not specifically prohibit 3M from taking in waste, but forbids 3M from charging other businesses for taking their waste. 3M says it's not planning to begin charging for that, because it needs waste with high energy content, such as solvents, to keep its incinerator burning.

Agency spokesman Ralph Pribble said the MPCA's focus is on whether incinerators comply with the rules. "The bottom line is, we look at what's coming out of the stack," he said.

City officials, and an opposition group called the Independent Coalition of Concerned Cottage Grove Citizens, will likely voice their concerns again as the MPCA moves on with the incinerator's permit renewal process, Mayor Myron Bailey said.

"3M actually held things up in order to be open and transparent, and we made some concessions in the permit application based on input from the community," 3M spokesman Bill Nelson said.

Emissions from the incinerator, which have been well below allowable levels, will be virtually unchanged, he added.

Jim Anderson • 612-673-7199