Xcel Energy’s Wilmarth plant on the north end of Mankato has been burning refuse for almost 30 years. It has not been in violation of its permits.

Its permits aren’t always up-to-date, either. Indeed, the incinerator has been on a “continuing” permit since 2007.

That appears to be no fault of Xcel. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has apparently built up a backlog of permit renewals.

Carolina Schutt, a permit supervisor with the MPCA, told a Free Press reporter for a story earlier this week that the lapsed permit doesn’t mean the garbage burner is unscrutinized or out of compliance. She cited the increasing complexity of the regulations and a lack of staff for the long delay in formally renewing Wilmarth’s permit.

As she describes it, the permit continuance is merely a bureaucratic issue. An incinerator operating on a lapsed permit still must meet current emission standards, and Wilmarth has not failed those tests.

Still, having a permit on hiatus for more than seven years is rather silly. If we’re going to have the regulations, they should be enforced. If the MPCA lacks the resources to update permits in a timely manner — and activist Alan Muller of Red Wing claims more than half its air, water and solid waste permits have expired — the state should give it the necessary staff.

With the size of the budget surplus, finances ought not be a problem.

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