Three full-time workers assigned to help state's ethanol plantsby Stephanie Hemphill, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — The Pollution Control Agency is assigning three people to work full-time to help the state's 22 ethanol plants improve compliance with environmental regulations.
Nearly one-third of Minnesota's ethanol plants faced sanctions last year because they didn't meet requirements for water or air quality.
The PCA's Jeff Connell said the agency may set operating limits before new plants start, instead of after a break-in period as it is currently.
"Now that we have enough facilities operating, and Minnesota's become a more experienced ethanol producer, we know what our limits are regarding air emissions, water discharges; we can make permit limits more firm," Connell said.
The concentrated approach will include workshops, self-audits, and education to help the plants identify and fix problems. But Connell also said normal enforcement actions will continue.
"Just because these facilities have an opportunity to do it on their own, and we're going to help them do it on their own, doesn't mean traditional enforcement will be waived," he said. "If we get a complaint, and there's a discharge going on that's in violation of a permit or standard, there'll be an enforcement action taken for that."
Ethanol plants are classified as minor emitter, which means the MPCA generally inspects them only when it receives a complaint.
Over the last five years or so, Minnesota ethanol plants have doubled output and are now close to a billion gallons a year.