MinnErgy faces public scrutiny

By Bryan Sims | October 06, 2008
Web exclusive posted Oct. 30, 2008 at 12:16 p.m. CST

Despite a thorough review by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, residents of Eyota, Minn., have decried the MPCA's environmental assessment worksheet, citing that a more stringent review—particularly with regard to potential environmental impacts—is needed in order for Minnesota-based ethanol developer MinnErgy LLC to build an ethanol plant in or near the town.

An ethanol advisory group organized by Eyota Mayor Wes Bussell found that the MPCA information in the worksheet was "flawed and skewed for the benefit of the ethanol company."

Local citizens and conservation interests have fought the proposal for the past year, arguing that the proposed plant site contains sinkholes and the project could deplete local aquifers, reduce air quality and create unwanted odors. They also say the risk of ethanol spilling into the groundwater is too great.

MinnErgy contends that the site is ideal for the 52 MMgy ethanol plant due to the quality of roads and rail access in the area. The company has proposed containment structures to capture any hazardous spills.

According to Ron Scherbring, MinnErgy president and chief executive officer, the proposed facility has been a work in progress for almost three years. The company has done extensive permitting research, despite opposition by Eyota citizens and within Olmsted County, he said.

"Obviously, it's been a long and expensive process, but we don't have a problem with it," Scherbring said. "There is some local support for agricultural projects here. We're just looking forward to using a resource that normally gets shipped out of the area that we can instead use to add value to Minnesota, add jobs, economic benefit and increase the local tax base so that more money can flow here."

Eyota's planning commission approved MinnErgy's zoning change request, allowing the company to change from its original plant site to the new one, Scherbring added.

"We're still aggressively pursuing this project," Scherbring said. "We're right in the middle of corn country, which really lends well to this project. We just want to do our part to increase our nation's national energy security."

MinnErgy has identified Granite Falls, Minn.-based Fagen Inc. as the ethanol plant contractor and Colwich, Kan.-based ICM Inc. as the design and engineering firm for the plant, but no contracts were signed at press time, according to Scherbring.

The MPCA's citizen board was scheduled to vote at its 28 in St. Paul, Minn., on whether or not more research into the proposed plant and site are needed for MinnErgy to continue pursuing the project.