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Settlements at South Dakota ethanol facilities ensure air pollutant reductions, yield $225K in penalties

Release Date: 10/01/2010
Contact Information: Richard Mylott, 303-312-6654; Albion Carlson, 303-312-6207

Big Stone, Groton and Dakota Ethanol plants to address emissions and testing requirements for volatile organic compounds

(Denver, Colo. -- October 1, 2010) In consent decrees lodged yesterday in the United States District Court for the District of South Dakota, the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reached agreements with the operators of three South Dakota ethanol production facilities resolving Clean Air Act violations associated with emissions and testing requirements for volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

“EPA expects ethanol production facilities to employ appropriate controls and testing procedures to manage air emissions,” said Jim Martin, EPA’s regional administrator in Denver. “The volatile organic compounds created in the ethanol refining process can contribute to ground-level ozone and create local and regional health concerns.”

As a result of EPA’s investigation, the facilities have enhanced existing controls through repair and renovation of thermal oxidizers and improving scrubber operations. They have also agreed to conduct specific performance testing when demonstrating compliance with VOC limits.

EPA alleges that POET and James Valley violated Clean Air Act regulations at the Groton ethanol facility by failing to maintain an internal floating roof on the liquid inside several storage vessels. This roof is designed to inhibit the volatilization of the ethanol in air by remaining in contact with the surface.

EPA also alleges that POET and Northern Lights violated a Clean Air Act operating permit at the Big Stone ethanol facility by exceeding certain VOC emissions limits, conducting invalid testing to demonstrate compliance with VOC emissions limits, and failing to install required monitoring devices. EPA also claims that operators failed to maintain the internal floating roof inside several storage vessels at the Big Stone Facility.

James Valley, Northern Lights and POET have agreed to pay a civil penalty of $150,000 and to remedy deficiencies and adopt approved methods for measuring VOC emissions from the Groton and Big Stone facilities.

In a separate settlement, EPA also announced the resolution of Clean Air Act claims against Dakota Ethanol, LLC at its ethanol production facility near Wentworth.

EPA alleges that Dakota Ethanol violated its permit by exceeding certain VOC emissions limits, conducting inappropriate testing to demonstrate compliance with VOC limits, and failing to conduct required VOC stack testing in a timely manner. EPA also claims operators failed to maintain the internal floating roof on the liquid inside several storage vessels at the plant. Dakota Ethanol will remedy deficiencies, implement appropriate testing methods and pay a civil penalty of $75,000.

All three facilities are dry mill ethanol plants that produce ethanol for use as a fuel. Ethanol is primarily a product of industrial corn and is widely used as an automobile fuel by itself or blended with gasoline. During the ethanol manufacturing process, dry mills burn off gases that emit VOCs into the air. VOCs are precursors to ozone formation and pose risks to human health and the environment.

The proposed settlements are subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval. Copies of the consent decrees will be available on the Department of Justice website at http://www.justice.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html.