Citizens post ethanol plant opposition

By Tonya Fennell: CNJ staff writer

Players in the proposed Clovis ethanol deal assembled Friday to discuss issues related to the plant during a Curry County Commission meeting.

Representatives from the Clovis/Curry Chamber of Commerce, Clovis Industrial Development Corp. and Clovis Ethanol LLC spoke in support of the plant. Several private citizens and Curry County Commissioner Ed Perales stood firmly on the opposing side.

ConAgra Trade Group and Carlyle/Riverstone Renewable Energy have applied for an air permit to build a 110-million-gallon-a-year ethanol plant in the next year near the existing Peavey Company West grain elevator located on U.S. 60-84 west of Clovis.

On Nov. 9, Curry County commissioners passed a resolution stating their official opposition to the proposed plant. The decision to pass the resolution came after several Curry County residents expressed concerns centering around the plant’s possible water usage and potential health issues.

Kirk Johnson, general manager of the proposed ethanol plant, said he attended the meeting to update the commissioners on the recent meetings that have been held in the area to inform the public about the facility. “I’m not here for a vote,” Johnson said. “I’m here to keep the lines of communication open.”

Blake Prather, of Citizens for the Right Choice, said the negatives of the ethanol plant far outweigh the positives.

“The 50 jobs (which would be created by the plant),” Prather said, “is not worth the impact on property values, quality of life and use of our water.”

In a previous meeting, Prather presented the commissioners with pages of data he said supported his theory of health risks from pollutants associated with the plant, which could be carried across Curry County by a southwesterly wind.

Curry County Sheriff Roger Hatcher, who said he was speaking as a private citizen, tried to put the possibility of pollutants emitted by the plant into perspective.

“I’m not positive or negative about the ethanol plant,” Hatcher said. “But, farmers have been spraying pesticides, which are carried by strong winds across Clovis, for years and no one is asking the farmers to quit farming.”

Johnson said the plant’s planned emissions, submitted in an air quality permit to the state, would meet National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

“There will be measures in place to greatly reduce odors and emissions,” he said. “Environmental engineers have been working on this project for six months.”

Following a query regarding the proposed location of the plant by Perales, who represents the district where the plant could be constructed, Johnson said ConAgra is not considering an alternative site for the ethanol plant. Johnson said the existing infrastructure at the Peavey grain elevator is the driving factor behind the proposed location.

“Well, I work for my constituents,” Perales said, “and they do not want this plant in their back yards.”

No action regarding the plant was taken during the meeting.

Other agenda items discussed:
• Final vote totals from the Nov. 7 general election were certified by commissioners. No changes were made from Election Night reports.
• Commissioners approved 30 indigent claims totaling $38, 334.31.