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Minnesota Ethanol Plant Fined $425K for Environmental Violations

Friday, October 30, 2009

Corn ethanol is far from an environmentally friendly fuel. While petroleum's pollution contributions are obvious and well reported, ethanol's are less clear. However, from chemical fertilizers and pesticides slathered on corn crops (which run off into rivers and streams and eventually end up in the Gulf 'Dead Zone')  to the clearing of wildlife habitat, there is much to worry about. This recent  Minnesota Public Radio report on a major pollution violation by a Minnesota ethanol plant demonstrates just how cautious we need to be when considering increasing ethanol production:

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency said Thursday that Bushmills Ethanol Inc. will pay the penalty for violations that occurred at the company's facility in Atwater, about 80 miles west of Minneapolis. Besides going over wastewater discharge limits, the MPCA said the facility produced more ethanol than allowed under its permit, and failed to inspect and maintain production and pollution-control equipment. The violations occurred from 2006 through this year. MPCA officials said overproduction and failure to maintain equipment meant the facility could have emitted more air pollutants than allowed under its permit [EWG emphasis added].

Even more disturbingly, the MPCA said in its news release announcing the fines:

The facility had been permitted to discharge its waste water and storm water to a golf course for irrigation. Instead, the discharge was routed into the city of Atwater's storm sewer system without prior authorization from MPCA. Additionally, the facility exceeded permitted discharge limits for regulated pollutants.

It was just yesterday, by the way, that Tom Buis of the leading corn ethanol trade group, Growth Energy, was urging Congress to increase the amount of ethanol blended into gasoline by 50% and had this to say about ethanol's environmental impact:

Ethanol can supply the clean, green transportation fuel we need today and tomorrow.

Oh, really?

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