Wet mill reaches agreement with state attorney general

By Holly Jessen | April 08, 2014

Grain Processing Corp. of Muscatine, Iowa, a wet mill that produces quality alcohol and some fuel ethanol, has been ordered to pay a $1.5 million civil penalty for environmental violations and will, as part of a settlement agreement, transition from coal to natural gas.

 “GPC will take the extraordinary step of converting all of its boilers from coal-fired to natural gas-fired no later than July 15, 2015,” the company said in a press release. “Converting the boilers to natural gas will significantly reduce and all but eliminate sulfur dioxide, lead, and other emissions.” The company added that additional capital projects and monitor activities will be undertaken for reducing environmental impact and air quality improvement.

The company, which operates a second wet mill in Washington, Ind., produces a combined total of 180 MMgy of beverage alcohol, industrial alcohol and fuel ethanol. Although the company doesn’t release specific volumes of fuel ethanol produced, it is a member of the Renewable Fuels Association, which lists the capacity of each plant at 20 MMgy fuel ethanol.

In addition to this, the company is also in the midst of a $100 million environmental sustainability effort. A state-of-the-art dryer is currently being installed and scheduled to be operationally in early 2015 and additional environmental control systems are being installed and upgraded. “In less than eighteen months, these efforts will reduce total emissions to levels well below the newest and more stringent air quality standards now set by the EPA,” the company said in a press release. “When the dryer house is fully operational, smoke, odor and haze will be nearly eliminated.”

The settlement will help the company focus on the future. “The amended petition from the AG’s office provided an opportunity for GPC and the [Department of Natural Resources] to collaboratively develop specific plans to address the full scope of concerns,” said Gage Kent, CEO and chairman of Kent Corp., of which GPC is a wholly-owned subsidiary. “GPC has and will continue to make a huge commitment of resources to deliver on the promise of air quality improvement.”

The $1.5 million civil penalty is the largest ever paid in Iowa for environmental violations.  “This is a comprehensive and historic resolution of an environmental enforcement action,” said Attorney General Tom Miller, in a press release.  “This outcome will go far toward ensuring GPC’s environmental compliance and improving air quality in Muscatine.”

According to an Iowa Department of Justice press release, GPC estimated that implementation would cost between $15 million and $17 million in capital expenses plus another $1 million in annual operation costs and $4 million to $12 million in increased fuel co