Plant reps testify on location

By Gabriel Monte: CNJ staff writer

Witnesses for ConAgra Foods testified the plant did follow state and federal regulations to notify and have gone above and beyond what was needed to prove its environmental impact.

A two-day hearing regarding an air-quality permit for the food company’s ethanol plant concluded Friday.

The New Mexico Environmental Improvement Board held the hearing after Concerned Citizens of Curry County, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the League of United Latin Americans filed an appeal against the plant’s permit on grounds that the company did not correctly notify area residents of the location of the plant.

The New Mexico Environment Department granted the company a permit in May.

Hearing officer Kathi Bearden said the board will deliberate a decision for the air quality permit in its Nov. 14 meeting.

The company proposed to build the plant on 1327 US-84, where the West Peavey grain elevator is located. The community groups and residents who live in the immediate area testified Thursay they did not receive any notice from the company.

Environmental consultant for ConAgra Stephen Frey said the location of the plant in the application was taken from a New Mexico Environment Department air-quality permit for the Peavey Grain elevator on West US-84, where the food company plans to build a 108-million-gallon a day ethanol plant.

Frey also testified a model simulating the plant’s impact on air quality showed below state- and federally-regulated levels of contaminants.

Frey said he also created a model similar to simulatons created for ethanol plants in Minnesota that include emissions of cancerous particles. The results of the model showed the plant would potentially emit minimal amounts of substances.

ConAgra representative Kirk Johnson said people who attended informational meetings prior to the initial permit hearing in January knew where the plant was located and did not complain about notification. He said complaints about notification were not brought up to him until the appeal hearing.

Board member Zack Shandler asked Johnson if he would accept a permit with the condition that the plant relocate to the Industrial Park. Johnson replied that an Industrial Park location was impractical since it only provided a short line to the railway instead of the spur it has in its current location.

The board will decide to either deny the permit or grant it with modifications.