Citizens concerned over ethanol plant advances
Published: Tuesday, December 12th, 2006
New Mexico Environment Department representatives said Tuesday they’ve found no reason to deny the proposed Clovis Ethanol an air quality permit. The news, delivered during an informational meeting at Bella Vista Elementary, didn’t please the vocal majority of the 55 citizens in attendance who are concerned the proposed 110-million-gallon-a-year plant will cause excessive air pollutants and adverse health effects. With many citizens bringing up concerns about the plant, NMED Bureau Chief Richard Goodyear tried to remind them the meeting was for informational purposes and was not a public hearing. For serious disputes with the plant, he recommended mounting their arguments for a Jan. 11 hearing at the Clovis Civic Center. Before the ConAgra Trade Group — partners in Clovis Ethanol — can begin construction on the plant along U.S. 60/84 near ConAgra’s existing grain handling facility the state Environment Department must approve the plant’s air quality permit. According to materials available at the meeting, the plant would annually emit 99 tons of nitrogen oxides, 99 tons of carbon monoxide, and 90 tons of volatile organic compounds, among other pollutants -- all within standards allowed under federal guidelines. Those numbers, NMED Permit Specialist Sam Speaker said, would be approximations of what the plant would emit if it were running 24 hours a day, 365 days per year. “In reality, will the facility operate that much? Probably not,” Speaker said. Those numbers would qualify the plant as a minor air pollutant, according to state standards, and the Department said that as of now, its recommendation to the state is to approve the application. “We have reached the point where we’ve done the analysis we need to do,” NMED Bureau Chief Richard Goodyear said. “The analysis finds the facility will not result in any contaminants outside the fenceline that exceed the federal standards.” Leo Dudley of Clovis said he feared the process is already too far in motion, and the hearing might be too late for any argument to sway the state from turning down the air quality permit. Dudley said he was concerned because the plant was so close to schools and residential areas — the school where Tuesday’s meeting was held sits less than a mile from the proposed plant site. “We’re not anti-ethanol,” Dudley said. “We’re pro-quality life. Somebody needs to take that into consideration.” Chase Gentry, the executive director of the Clovis Industrial Development Corp., said the ethanol plant would bring 50 direct jobs to Clovis and many indirect jobs as well. He said the CIDC looks for companies that will help make Clovis a better place to live, and he compared the plant to Southwest Cheese. “We do development in Curry County and Clovis,” Gentry said. “That’s our job.” Samuel Cordova of Clovis disagreed with Gentry’s comparison, because the cheese plant is about 10 miles south of Clovis near the Curry County line. “You’re building something where people live,” Cordova said. “I think a majority of people (are) saying they don’t want it here.” Clovis Ethanol Director Kirk Johnson attended the meeting and told citizens he and other company representatives would be happy to answer questions from citizens regarding the plant. Goodyear said the Department would attempt to answer questions on its Web site if they weren’t answered at the meeting due to time constraints.
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