More power, maybe not so clean air

Minnesota State Roundup

Published July 1, 2002  | July 2002 issue

In May, the Environmental Pollution Agency (EPA) informed ethanol producers in Minnesota, and elsewhere in the country, that ethanol plants have been found to be releasing pollutants at levels "many times greater" than allowed by the Clean Air Act.

New tests with more accurate equipment will be used to measure compliance throughout the state, and additional—very expensive—pollution control equipment will be required if plants are found not to meet federal standards. Some analysts say the added expense may threaten the economic viability of higher-cost producers, even at a time of great expansion in the industry fueled by the phasing out of another gasoline additive and a recent U.S. Senate bill that would double ethanol use by 2010.

Minnesota's plants can produce about 330 million gallons of ethanol, about 14 percent of the nation's capacity. One Minnesota plant, located in downtown St. Paul, is able to meet federal standards, according to authorities, because it recently installed $1.2 million worth of pollution control equipment to address odor complaints from neighbors. But the St. Paul plant now faces complaints for violating the noise levels it agreed to meet last winter.

Douglas Clement