Ethanol risk study spurned
Published: Wednesday, December 20th, 2006
Citizens’ call for an independent study of health risks related to the proposed Curry County ethanol plant was snuffed Tuesday at a Curry County Commission meeting. The Commission turned down a resolution that would have initiated a study of health risks to entities within close proximity of the proposed plant on U.S. 60/84, including schools, parks, neighborhoods, and the hospital, a copy of the resolution reads. Commissioners do not have the power to require such a study or to interfere with the state air permitting process, Curry County Commission Chairman Tim Ashley said. Commissioner Ed Perales introduced a motion to pass the resolution, but it was never seconded and died, according to minutes from the Tuesday Curry County Commission meeting. Attempts to reach Perales were unsuccessful. In lieu of the resolution, commissioners unanimously agreed to draft a letter to the New Mexico Health Department urging that the department conduct a health risk analysis of the proposed plant’s effects on the surrounding population, minutes show. Blake Prather — a founder of the anti-ethanol plant group, Citizens for Right Choice — proposed the failed resolution, minutes show. Prather presented 1,500 signatures against the plant to commissioners during the meeting and pointed out that states such as Nebraska and Minnesota have adopted stricter standards, including zoning laws, for ethanol plants. Prather declined comment. Emissions at the plant will not exceed federal standards set for public health, according to plant officials. In an informational meeting held Dec. 12 in Clovis, the New Mexico Environment Department indicated they found no reason to deny ConAgra Trade Group, Inc. an air permit to operate a 110-million gallon a year ethanol plant on the edge of Clovis. Following a public hearing Jan. 11 at the Clovis Civic Center, NMED will make a final decision about whether to issue the permit. That decision should be made by May, NMED officials have said. Operation of the ethanol plant hinges on obtaining an air quality permit. The plant must obtain an air permit before it can pursue a construction permit, according to ConAgra officials.
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