Court clears way for first new MN ethanol plant in years

(article by John Weiss, published at The Post-Bulletin, Austin MN online site)
Read the ruling (PDF).

EYOTA — A Minnesota Court of Appeals ruling that the $133 million ethanol plant proposed for near Eyota doesn’t need a full environmental study means it can go ahead as soon as economic conditions improve, said Ron Scherbring, president and CEO of MinnErgy, which wants to build it.

“It definitely means a lot to us,” he said. “This ruling is huge.”

It shows that the project is not going to harm the air or the water, and it removes a major potential roadblock, he said.

Those opposing the plant, however, still believe it will have major economic consequences and they are considering an appeal to the state Supreme Court, said Jim Peters of Glenwood, who is representing Olmsted County Concerned Citizens. The group will have to decide in the next few weeks on the appeal.

Group members had sought the full environmental impact statement because they believe the smaller environmental worksheet is inadequate. The group filed suit against the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and MinnErgy LLC after the MPCA decided that no further environmental study was required.

Our Take:
We understand the citizen concern, but here we have to applaud the workings of the court system, to allow an ethanol project to go forward in Minnesota. Some would prefer that not another ounce of additional ethanol production capacity be added in our state, and they would use the courts to attempt to block that development.

The strategy of requiring the ethanol industry to produce redundant environmental assessments is unfair. The environmental workups required to win permits from Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and Department of Natural Resources (managing water use), are already exhaustive and we are happy to see the courts recognize this.

This isn’t the last hurdle for MinnErgy, whose management says the economic picture still needs to come together. We are hopeful that this can be the first in the next wave of development to develop more local, cleaner burning energy. Ethanol keeps jobs and dollars here, rather than sending them overseas by continuing to grow our oil habit.

The ethanol industry already supports 18,000 jobs in Minnesota directly, and creates more than $6 billion dollars in economic activity. We think it can continue to grow in a rational way that harnesses natural resources without threatening the degradation of the environment.


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