Residents express concern about ethanol plant

By Tonya Fennell: CNJ Staff Writer

A dozen Curry County residents expressed concerns about a proposed ethanol plant west of the city at Tuesday’s Curry County Commission meeting.

Most of the concerns centered around potential health issues that some say may arise from the construction and operation of a 105-million-gallon-a-year ethanol plant near the existing Peavey-West grain elevator located on U.S. 60/84 west of Clovis.

In response, the Curry County Commission plans to draft a letter to the New Mexico Environmental Department in support of scheduling a public hearing to address the environmental impact of the ethanol plant, according to County Commission Chairman Tim Ashley, a strong supporter of building the plant.

Curry County resident Blake Prather told commissioners although he is “pro-ethanol,” he is vehemently against the location because of the southwesterly wind he said could carry hazardous dust across Clovis.

Prather said there are laws that prohibit constructing an ethanol plant where it will impact the quality of life of minority or low-income residents.

Angelina Baca Rodriguez said she is also concerned about health issues.

“I live about a half a mile from the (proposed) plant,” Rodriguez said, “and I have a baby that was born prematurely and has allergies, and this (ethanol plant) won’t help.”

Curry County Commissioner Ed Perales, who represents the district where the ConAgra Group plans to build a plant that would go online next October, agrees with his constituents regarding the location of the plant.

“Dust is not an issue for me,” Perales said, “but the smell is.”

ConAgra officials have said the plant will employ new technology that would shrink the smells associated with ethanol production.

Curry County Commissioner Kathrynn Tate agrees the public hearing is warranted.
“I represent these people, too,” she said, “and if they have concerns, then they deserve to be heard.”

Ashley stood firmly in support of the ethanol plant.

“We (Curry County officials) don’t want to harm Curry County,” Ashley said, “but these are serious allegations which need to be proven.”

Ashley said he believes the ethanol plant would have a positive impact on the county.

“We (Curry County) are talking about 50 good-paying jobs and economic development,” he said.

Other agenda items discussed:
• Curry County Clerk Mario Trujillo reported absentee voting will begin Tuesday.

• Commissioners approved the preliminary plat for the Eagle Crest subdivision. Curry County Assessor Randy Williams requested the plat be approved without street names because of possible safety issues related to the proposed street name, Eagle Drive. “There is already an Eagle Way (in Clovis),” Williams said, “so there could be some confusion (to emergency services).” The commissioners plan to address the street name issue at a later date.

• The Curry County Commission’s Nov. 7 meeting was moved to Nov. 9 to avoid conflict with the General Election. Commissioners plan to meet on Nov. 17 to canvass votes.

n Curry County Commissioners approved 19 indigent claims totaling $19,344.