DC, September 3, 2003 (ENS): Air pollution
from ethanol manufacturing plants has been a problem
for some residents of St. Paul, Minnesota, but they
have been successful in obtaining the support of the
U.S. Justice Department for their efforts to limit emissions
from the Gopher State Ethanol facility in St. Paul.
Ethanol is a fuel derived from grain.
The Justice Department has requested that the federal
district court in Minnesota approve proposed amendments
to the 2002 Clean Air Act settlement with Gopher State
Ethanol, based on residents' comments.
The original consent decree was lodged with the court
on October 2, 2002, as one of 12 national settlements
to mandate reductions in air pollution from ethanol
manufacturing plants. When the initial consent decrees
were lodged, the U.S. provided an opportunity for the
public to review all the proposed settlements, including
the Gopher State deal.
Residents of St. Paul who live near the facility raised
a number of concerns and provided written comments on
the decree. Representatives of the community attended
a January 8, 2003 meeting in St. Paul with federal and
state officials to voice their concerns about the plant’s
operation. As a result of the public input, the plaintiffs
elected to reopen the consent decree to strengthen certain
aspects of the deal.
According to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Regional
Administrator Tom Skinner, an important change is a
restriction on the facility’s handling of “wet
cake,” a byproduct of the ethanol manufacturing
“In an urban setting, the air pollution caused
by this material is a problem,” Skinner said.
“People in the community were concerned, and we’ve
responded by restricting Gopher State’s reliance
on the methods that create this byproduct.”
Assistant Attorney General Tom Sansonetti said, “We
worked with the community and with the Gopher State
facility to get this settlement right for the citizens
of St. Paul.” Sansonetti added that Gopher State
has been cooperative throughout this process.
On June 5, the United States lodged an amended consent
decree with the court that includes the agreed upon
restrictions, and sought comments from the public on
the revised settlement. The comments received are addressed
in the government’s brief, which was filed with
the court today.
The amended decree addresses allegations made by state
and federal regulators that volatile organic compounds
(VOC) and carbon monoxide from feed dryers, cooling
cyclones, and ethanol loading operations have historically
been underestimated by the ethanol industry.
Recent testing of these units in Minnesota plants indicates
that the emissions are well in excess of the 100 tons
per year that is the threshold for “major sources”
to be regulated under the Prevention of Significant
Deterioration provisions of the Clean Air Act.
Since the facilities are now considered to be major
sources, they are required to install best available
control technology on all units that are significant
sources of pollution throughout the plant. The facilities
were mistakenly permitted as minor sources when they
Under the settlement, Gopher State must operate a thermal
oxidizer to reduce VOC emissions by 95 percent from
the feed dryers, and meet, new more restrictive emission
limits for nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, carbon
monoxide, and hazardous air pollutants. The primary
sources of these emissions are the feed dryers, fermentation
units, gas boilers, cooling cyclones, ethanol load-out
systems, and fugitive dust emissions from facility operations.
On August 22, a federal judge in Urbana, Illinois approved
the United States’ comprehensive settlement with
grain industry giant Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) covering
ethanol and oil seed operations at 52 plants in 16 states.
ADM is the largest ethanol manufacturer in the United
States with approximately 50 percent of the market.
The ADM decree requires the same 95 percent reduction
in volatile organic compound emissions from the ethanol
processes that have been imposed on the small Minnesota