Citizens group hosting ethanol meeting

By Marlena Hartz : CNJ staff writer

Arguments against the proposed location for an ethanol plant will be given at 7 p.m., today, in the Clovis Community College Town Hall.

Hosting the public meeting is a group of Clovis residents who oppose locating an ethanol plant at 1327 U.S. 60-84 near Clovis. That location is less than 1 mile from Clovis city limits.

ConAgra Trade Group, Inc. and Carlyle/Riverstone Renewable Energy Infrastructure Fund are applying for an air quality permit from the New Mexico Environment Department to operate a 110-million gallon a year ethanol plant at the highway site near ConAgra’s existing Peavey Co. West grain handling facility.

“We will go over some of the issues of putting this facility in this location and why it is a bad location considering its proximity to schools, the hospital, and the southwestern part of town,” said Blake Prather, who lives about a mile and a half from the proposed site.

“The idea,” said Clovis resident Frank Dottle, who lives just yards from the proposed site, “is to discuss the health risks.”

Prather and Dottle are members of a fledgling group against the proposed site, Citizens for Right Choice, who believe that prevailing winds in Clovis will carry dangerous emissions, dust, and smells across Clovis.

They also believe an ethanol plant at the proposed location would unfairly jeopardize the quality of life and health of minorities that live close by.

Per year, the plant will emit approximately 90 tons of nitrogen dioxide, 92 tons of carbon monoxide, 60 tons of particulate matter, 53 tons of sulfur dioxide, and 90 tons of volatile organic compounds, according to ConAgra permit documents.

Air pollutants emitted at the proposed plant would not exceed federal standards set for health, according to ConAgra and New Mexico Environment Department officials.
Smells associated with the production of the ethanol would be mitigated by thermal oxidizers, which use heat to reduce organic compounds to carbon dioxide and water, ConAgra and NMED officials have indicated in permit documents.

Representatives of the Clovis/Curry County Chamber of Commerce recently visited ethanol plants in Iowa and South Dakota. They said residents near those ethanol plants did not complain of odors, largely because thermal oxidizers mitigated odors.

Kirk Johnson of Clovis Ethanol, a legal entity formed to represent partners in the Clovis ethanol venture, said he will attend Thursday’s meeting. Johnson is set to manage the plant in Clovis.

ConAgra officials said community concerns are important to them.

“Hopefully,” Johnson said, “when it is all said and done, the two parties (Clovis Ethanol and Citizens for Right Choice) can co-exist.”

Clovis Ethanol was formed within the last 30 days, according to ConAgra spokeswoman Melissa Baron.

A Clovis ethanol plant would generate more than 100 jobs — 50 at the plant and 50 to 75 indirect jobs in service of the plant, according to ConAgra officials.

Another 300 would be employed in the construction of the plant, they predict. Construction on the plant was slated to begin in October, ConAgra officials said in June.

The Clovis plant stands to be the largest producer of ethanol in New Mexico.